Lonely

The other day I walked with Aiden partway to his bus stop. On the way he just looked so dejected as he quietly asked, “Do I really have to ride the bus? I hate the bus.” We got to the park and he went one way and I went the other to continue on my morning walk. As I got to the other side of the park, I looked back and I could see *all* these 7th and 8th graders waiting for the bus, standing in groups and pairs, and I could hear them talking, laughing, and joking. And I saw Aiden. Alone. Looking around and kind of holding/wringing his hands (like he does when he gets anxious). It broke my heart to see my wonderful, funny, friendly, smart child feel so alone.

After dinner last night Dallin declared that he is lonely, that he doesn’t fit in anywhere, and he’s just so tired of being different from all the other kids. He has one good friend, but that’s really it. Again, it broke my heart.

This morning Parker was frowning as I drove him to school and he just kind of sat in the van for a minute. He is sad because he says his best friends are saying mean things to him lately. Parker is definitely my most outgoing and friendly child, and to see him so sad that when we walked slowly into the school with his head hanging down, it took everything I had not to run out and grab him and say “We’re going to have a special day of just us!”

I know that once Aiden is at school with his friends he is totally fine and happy. I know that once Dallin is with his one good friend he is having the time of his life and feels great. I know that once Parker gets on that playground and sees all his friends and starts playing their silly games, he’ll be smiling and running along with them. But in those moments the past few days? It hurts me so much to see them hurting like that. And I don’t know what I can do to make it better. Partly because I, too, just feel so lonely and dejected so much of the time. I have my friends, but when I’m in the house and haven’t seen my husband in what feels like years (when it’s just been since this morning but he gets up and leaves something like an hour before I do and doesn’t get home until waaaay past bedtime, saying I haven’t seen my husband in a few hours just doesn’t feel correct)… when I’m stuck with just a 2 year old who doesn’t know how to talk other than his adorable 2-year-old gibberish… It’s just lonely.

I wanted to avoid a lot of the loneliness I felt as a child for my children. My family moved (a lot) growing up and while I was pretty content starting new schools and attending new churches and meeting new people and making new friends, sometimes it’s just plain lonely. I never had roots. Even today my oldest friends (from high school… I only have one friend from 8th grade and that’s as far back as my friendships go) will sometimes post the Throwback Thursday pictures that include many people from our circle of friends. They went to kindergarten together and had First Communion together or went to the same Vacation Bible School… I don’t have any of that. I don’t have a history with anyone and I don’t have roots to a place or with a particular group of people other than my immediate family. Even then, we all live so far away from each other (I’m in Arizona, I have one sister in Georgia, one sister in England, one brother in Utah, four brothers in different parts of Idaho, parents in Idaho, parents in Texas, and a brother on a mission in New Mexico). It’s not like we can have a family dinner or I can call my sister and say, “Hey, wanna bring the kids over for lunch today?”

So I really thought that by living in one place and working hard for my kids to go to one school and live on a street and in a neighborhood with lots of kids their ages would be an advantage to curb the loneliness. Right now it doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s not always going to be that way, I know that. It’s just… right now.

And my heart still breaks. I don’t like to see my kids hurt and not be able to fix it.

Carpe Diem

Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and immediately, completely, overwhelmingly saddened to hear of the death of Robin Williams by suicide yesterday. It’s not often you’ll find a celebrity death that hits so close to home to really affect everyone you know. Robin Williams was truly loved and admired by all. He brought so much joy to the world, so much laughter, and he really did good things. I have never read anything bad about him. Every single person who has met him or worked with him can only gush with glowing things. What a great human being.

I also loved just how human Robin Williams was. He fought personal demons in addiction and depression. He owned it, too. He sought help and was treated. He was a survivor for a very long time. This suicide is shocking because most people don’t completely understand what depression is or what it does. As my friends and family know, I suffer from depression. I have been on and off medication for many years now. All I’ve seen about depression all over social media today has been really great. But only up to a point. Let me tell you what I know about my disease.

I know it’s an illness. I know it’s not my fault. I know people love me. I know that there are plenty of people out there who really do care and want to help me and don’t want me to commit suicide. I know there are numbers to call, people to talk to. I know when I’m on my medication I am much better than when I’m off. I. KNOW.

I also know that most days it’s hard to get out of bed for no other reason than I just don’t feel comfortable in my own skin, in my own mind. I often feel like I’m stuck in this deep, dark, black abyss and I can’t find my way out. Or like I’m swimming in tar. Everything about me is moving slowly and is painful and takes so much effort, but I can see the rest of the bright, fast-moving world and I can’t figure out how to get there. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting swallowed up. Sometimes I don’t think I can breathe. A lot of times I just get angry. At every one. At every thing. Often I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience: I can see myself reacting in a certain way and I say to myself, “Why are you doing that? This is ridiculous!”, while at the same time I can’t control myself in that reaction and it just happens. I look at my children and I take joy in how wonderful, beautiful, smart, talented, and awesome they are, but in the back of my mind is always that whisper: “They deserve better.” I have never been able to squelch that whisper. I look at my husband and I can feel how much he loves me and cares for me. I love him with my entire body and soul and don’t want to do a thing to hurt him, but that same whisper is there: “He deserves better. If he’d married someone else, he wouldn’t have to deal with this.”

There is no end to depression. None. Getting on medication and seeking counseling takes it down. A LOT. But it’s still there. Always there, lingering, waiting, whispering. If you’re like me, you learn to cope. You have your bad days where the house is a mess and you’re in pajamas and it’s a victory  in that the toddler got fed. And then you force yourself to take a shower and get dressed because you have to go volunteer in your kid’s classroom, or your husband needs you to drop off lunch for him. You put on a smile and ask your son how Cub Scouts was. You go to the neighbor’s house to socialize because that’s what neighbors do. But you can’t wait until everyone goes to bed so you can have some peace and quiet and not have to smile or tell jokes. I am pretty open about my depression, but I also hold a lot back because of the fear of what others will think, say, or do.

You know someone with depression. Every single person knows someone with depression. What can you do? You can check in with them. You can tell them you love them. You can make them feel wanted and needed. And even if you do all that and they still choose to end their life? You can not feel guilty about what could have or should have been. It is not anyone’s fault. Not yours, not mine, not theirs. You can mourn them and love their family and know that sometimes this really does feel like the only way to end the despair. It’s so tiring to feel like this. I continue to fight. Every day I fight my own demons. Every single day. I can’t tell you who’s going to win this fight. I know that you all fight with me, though, and that’s huge. It is! Just… be there. Continue to love me for who I am. Don’t try to change me. Don’t tell me what wonderful things I have in my life. Don’t try to blow it off as me being sad. Don’t tell me to just change my attitude or diet or medication. Don’t read to me scriptures and tell me that Heavenly Father loves me and expect it to be enough. Just love me and be present. The fight is a little easier when you know you have an army.

New Adventure

I’ve started a new blog. Don’t worry! I’m still blogging here! This will just be way more personal. My new blog is all about parenting and raising a family in Arizona. I’m still working out all the kinks and trying to get it just where I want it, but I’ve started and wouldn’t mind a few of my friends coming through and commenting while I get it going. It’s called “Hot But Happy: Adventures in Arizona” and can be found here: arizonamomof4.wordpress.com

 

How I Do It

At last month’s book club, one of the women asked, “How do you find time to read so much?” It was a general question, but I was one who was able to give an answer. I actually get asked this a lot. I’m a pretty voracious reader, I know. I’ve got a bit of a reputation. So here is my answer (and yes, this is what I told my book club):

First of all, I’m kind of a fast reader. It is almost nothing for me to sit down a read a book in an afternoon. I have always been a fast reader and it just comes naturally to me. So I am able to read more in less time.

Second, I don’t sleep very much. Once every one else in the house is in bed, I jump at the chance to read or watch TV all by myself (this is also how I am able to watch so many shows on Netflix). I regularly go to bed after midnight. Or, if I’m in bed at a decent time, I’m in bed reading until 1 or 2 am. I keep thinking I need to put the book down and turn off the light, but I can’t stop. Thankfully I have a deep sleeper for a husband who doesn’t mind that little light on. Most of the time.

Lastly — and here’s the biggest reason I am able to read so much — My house is a mess. I mean, it’s a disaster. I don’t clean it like I should. There are parts of my house that are just plain gross (*cough*bathroom*cough) because I refuse to clean someone else’s obvious mess. When it comes down to it, I look at the dishes sitting next to the sink and I look at my book sitting on the table, and I would rather read my book. So I do. It’s not like I never clean. And I make my children do chores and I don’t go back and redo it because I’m reading. If it’s going to be redone, they should have to. When faced with a decision, I always pick reading my book over doing chores.

And now you know my dirty little secret. I will never have a perfectly clean house because I choose books over scrubbing walls.

Kids These Days…

At the risk of sounding like one of those crazy, old, “get off my lawn!” geezers, I’m gonna talk about kids these days. Specifically… teenagers. I was a teenager once, I coach teenagers, I worked with the teenager girls in church for a few years, I teach teenagers… So, yeah. I’m an expert on teenagers. Pretty much.

I have these two girls on my high school color guard. Neither girl would be considered a star performer. They aren’t bad at all. They just aren’t great. I have some girls on my guard that are great. These two girls aren’t girls I would give a solo to and they often have to be given extra instruction and corrected many times before they fix a technique issue. There is a huge difference in these two girls, however, and that is desire.

One girl wants to be great. I mean, she really, really wants it. She takes her equipment home every day and practices every. single. day. She hasn’t been put on the weapons line yet, but she still works on her rifle and sabre technique. She goes with other girls to practice in the park. She signed up to help teach at a middle school and an elementary school so she could learn how to write choreography and how to teach basics, all while improving her own. Over the summer, she traveled to California to attend a clinic put on by the Blue Devils (one the best drum corps out there who has, hands down, the best color guard). I don’t think there is a single girl on my guard who wants it more than this girl. She will do anything to improve. She has made goals to be in a drum corps and wants to teach guard one day. She wants this.

The other girl has been doing dance and guard for a while, and she says she loves it and guard is her life. But I have noticed that rather than wanting this, she expects it. She expects that because she is an upperclassman, she will be on the weapons line. She expects that because she has been dancing for x many more years than someone else, then she should be the dance captain. She expects to come to rehearsal and learn all the technique and all the choreography and just be able to do it. She rarely takes her equipment home, and she rarely spends any time practicing (I’ve taught guard and private music lessons long enough, I know when a student has practiced.). She skips rehearsal because she’s “sick” or “has too much homework”. She never volunteers her time to help other, newer, younger students out. She trash talks the student leadership and acts as if she could do a better job, but never applies for the position herself. She gossips about her fellow members rather than calls them to meet with them. She never tries to do anything extra. She just expects that she will get it. She expects that leadership positions will be given to her. She expects that people will respect her because of the years of “experience”. She says she wants it, but she has shown me that she expects it and isn’t willing to actually work for it.

In my middle school guard, I have many girls who leave rehearsal frustrated and upset. They come to me and say, “I’m no good at this! I’m not a natural. I want to quit. This isn’t fun.” This is after the first or second rehearsal, friends. Not at the end of the season. No one is good at color guard in the first rehearsal! No one is a natural! It is not natural to spin a flag or toss a rifle. These are techniques and skills that have to be taught, worked at, practiced, and perfected over a long period of time. These girls expect to come to rehearsal and just get it and have tons of fun. I have to teach them that if you don’t have to work for it, it’s not worth doing. No one has told them that.

It’s a shame, really, because I see so much talent and promise in these middle school girls and so much talent and promise in those high school girls. But when they just expect it to happen? That’s when things don’t happen. Rather than taking their lack of training or ability as a kick in the butt to work harder, they whine and cry and threaten to quit. Many girls do quit. They won’t put in the effort. They just don’t want it. And that makes me sad.

I don’t expect anything. Ever. It really isn’t worth having if it’s handed to me and I don’t have to work for it. I can’t savor my success the same way as when I know I have put in all my effort and all my desire. The result is truly sweet when I get my wants that I’ve worked for.

Marriage Advice

I think the best piece of advice I got when I got married was this:

Never say anything bad about your spouse publicly.

At the time, it didn’t mean that much. I was in love and he was awesome and would I ever have anything bad to say about him? I mean, like, ever?? But of course the honeymoon was over and suddenly I was living with this other person and we didn’t always see eye to eye or maybe I didn’t like that shirt or maybe it annoyed me when he would try to help me in the kitchen (I was not a cook. He was great at it. I know now it was intended to be helpful but at the time I found it condescending. We laugh about it now.). I could have called my mom and my friends and my sister and  complained all day long. Any time we had a fight, I could have gone to someone else and whined and cried about how bad I feel. I’m sure I would have gotten the comfort I needed and the validation I needed at that time.

But then, a week later, when everything is wonderful with us, how would my best friend be feeling about my husband? Knowing intimate details about our fight? Or thinking that he is a horrible person for treating me so badly when it was actually one little misunderstanding and he and I worked it out, but of course I didn’t run to my friends to tell them how awesome and nice he is and how he made me dinner and hugged me for half an hour while I just cried or how he randomly brought home a movie that I love and have been wanting to buy…

Thankfully, I never put my family or friends in the awkward predicament of having to choose sides over issues. If there is something serious going on, we went to our ecclesiastical leaders or to a professional. Not to my friends or his friends or my mom…

In this day an age, we have Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram and… I don’t even know. There’s so much. And with all this social media people are breaking down walls of what they say. People aren’t afraid to get into arguments with complete strangers. And it seems like people are willing to risk friendships over stupid and trivial matters. Everything has become life of death and if you don’t agree with me, then I’m unfriending you and blocking you. And I’ll let everyone know what a crappy person you are.

I have seen so much personal stuff just thrown out on the internet because “It’s my Facebook and I can post what I want!” The last few days I have been devastated to read a friend making some vague and some not-so-vague digs at her husband’s family. They are definitely warranted, but I have to wonder if this is really the right venue to do so. I’m really uncomfortable. To top it off, things are being said about her husband now. I saw a comment thread go on and on as people talked with this friend about what her husband needs to do. Her husband even got on and half-heartedly tried to comment and yet more and more people got on and told him what he needs to do for his wife.

I really feel this should have been a private matter between them. I don’t live in their house and I have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors. I can shout my opinions about the the limited information I have gathered from Facebook, but how is that actually helping them? If I were to have this on my Facebook and I had 15 people jumping all over my husband, telling him what I need and what he needs to do, Ches would feel completely betrayed by me. I wouldn’t blame him for walking out, honestly. It is not the business of my friends to comment in a public manner on what I need to my husband. There are other, better, more effective avenues to take.

And another thing… if you have confided in me terrible things about your significant other and you went through a LOT of emotion in a break up, please don’t expect me to be able to just pick up and be happy when the two of you get back together. I’m super cautious. This person hurt you. And I love you and I get protective big time of the people I love. It’s hard for me to forgive all the hurt they caused you because I. Am. Not. There. And I’m scared they will do it again. I have to worked very hard to be happy for you.

I’m not saying don’t ever confide in me. I’m not saying I’m not here for you. Just know that once a person has been put in that position of “we hate so-and-so”, it’s really hard to get out of that position. I can’t switch gears that quickly. I love that you think enough of me that you come to me when you need a moment to vent. I get needing those moments (I have them. A lot.) and I encourage it because it’s not a good idea to just keep everything inside and pretend your life is all happy happy joy joy. I may talk to someone individually from time to time about my frustrations, but I don’t think you’ll ever hear me talk badly about Ches to a group or in a public forum of any kind. I love him and our marriage too much.

Overall, I think we all need to be careful of what we say in public and who we say things to. Do we want to betray that person we love? Do we want to risk damage to a relationship that will be harder than ever to repair?

Book Club

When we moved into our new house, we honestly had no idea what kind of street we moved on to. We hit the jackpot. Seriously! It’s so fun on our little street. And I’ll brag about life on the cul-de-sac another time. Tonight, however, I wanted to brag about how I decided to get out of my comfort zone a little so I could make friends.

Like I said, this is a fun street. The kids will all be out playing in the street and the moms stand in a driveway and talk. Or bring chairs to the end of the cul-de-sac and talk. I often feel like I have a hard time actually talking to other women without being awkward (I make a lot of self-deprecating jokes, thinking their funny, but in retrospect are probably just uncomfortable). I wanted to find a way to get to know the women on my street and be comfortable while doing so. I did find one thing in common: reading. We all like to read. 

So I started a book club. At first I started it for just our street, but I stated at the beginning that was just because I didn’t know anyone else, so feel free to invite other women. We have had four meetings now (and read three books: “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer, and “The Ladies Auxiliary” by Tova Mirvis… This month we are starting “Edenbrooke” by Julianne Donaldson) and while I had to miss the last one because of a fundraiser for my winter guard, I am having so. Much. FUN.

Book club is great because I get to read. I know this from past book clubs, too. Sometimes it’s something I’m really excited about reading and have wanted to read for a while. Sometimes it’s something I would never have picked up in the first place but end up loving (hello, “Ender’s Game”!). It’s just good to have something new to read. And then knowing your friends are reading it, too? Bonus! We get to talk about it! I love discussions at book club. We don’t always agree and we don’t all take the same things away from the book. That’s great because then we learn from each other, too. We get to see new perspectives and find out more about each other and our different backgrounds. And when it’s a book that we all just LOVE? Well, the discussion actually is kind of boring. It’s way more fun to have something that divides us a little bit.

And then there is the food. It’s not book club without food. Everyone makes such yummy food. You would think it would be a competition on who can come up with the yummiest treat, but that’s not it at all. There is no competition. Just excitement for the book, the discussion, and the food.

Most of all, I have enjoyed having a time where I can really get to know these other women on my street. Hang out with them without having to chase the toddler down the street at the same time or whatever. Just sit, eat, talk, joke… it’s my favorite night of the month. I’ll tell you a little secret: I’d do this without the books. The reading part is a bonus. I just like these women and I’m so glad I convinced myself to go for it. I was scared when I sent out the first message about starting the book club. I was scared people would laugh and think it’s stupid. I was scared no one would show up. But show up they did. And it’s growing. And no one thinks it’s stupid. And everyone talks about it all month long: “Have you gotten the book yet?” “How far into the book are you?” “I have to tell you about what I love so far…” It’s exciting to be just to be a part of things. 

Life is good on the cul-de-sac.