Making the Kool Aid

December 1, 2016

In my childhood neighborhood were families of many ethnicities and religions. There was a couple that lived down our street who would go on evening walks together, the woman keeping several steps behind her husband. My mother explained to me that this distinction of the man before the woman was a part of their culture. I could do that, I remember thinking. I could play that role and feed the male ego. And I did. Until one day I realized I was no longer playing a role but had internalized it. 

What made me think that in the first place? I must have been about 8 years old so I certainly had already absorbed many of the messages from my own very patriarchal upbringing. Maybe part of me thought I would take the patriarchy all the way, either calling their bluff or being the best female I possibly could, living their rules and ideals to the max. Or maybe I felt strong enough as a person that I could sacrifice myself outwardly and think I wasn’t losing a part of myself. 

I practiced being demure. I nit-picked every part of myself that wasn’t feminine enough. I learned to keep my own thoughts and opinions to myself, and keep them malleable enough to defer to others. I found pride in being very low maintenance so as to never inconvenience others.  I worked toward a Buddhist zen in giving up myself for others. I considered my service to be noble until I realized I had lost my own footing and didn’t knowhow to ask for help because I truly believed that the comfort of others was bigger than my own. 

It didn’t come as an epiphany, rather the stones beneath my feet gradually disappeared over time and littlebt little I became aware of my own fragility and precarious footing. 

It’s one thing to believe oneself to be an egalitarian. It’s completely something else to believe that includes yourself. I never would have believed that trying so hard to be good would leave me feeling so badly about myself. 


Thanks

November 25, 2016

Growing up my winter holidays were first thanksgiving, followed by Halloween, Remembrance Day, and then Christmas. It wasn’t until 1997 that I celebrated my first American thanksgiving, stuffing the turkey between the oft-ignored Veterans Day and Christmas. In the beginning I took it as an act of mercy: a long weekend to prepare for finals. I’ve only recently been able to appreciate it as a preparation for Christmas. 

While I’m not as outwardly demonstrative as my friends who post a daily gratitude each day of November, I do enjoy the daily devotional of being grateful for individual, specific things. It’s another form of the walking to school practice my friend Jessi taught me wherein she prayed her entire walk to campus and tried to only list the “thank the”s and not ask for a single thing. However we do it, whether it be social media, paper chains, feathers on the turkey, a cornucopia, a prayer of thanks in our hearts, or whatever else, devoting the month before Christmas to gratitude helps to prepare us for Christmas. 

The gratitude practice prepares us for Christ in both a metaphoric and literal sense. Often as we count our blessings we recall from whom all blessings come, and additionally we are more inclined to kindness and charity to each other, seeing the good in them and being grateful for their roles in our lives. As we show more love to them and serve them more we again come closer to Christ. 

I do still celebrate thanksgiving, albeit on a smaller scale, in October, and I lament that American thanksgiving is either encroached upon by Christmas or makes the Christmas holiday feel rushed, but after 19 years I’ve come to settle into the step-wise preparation for Christ that begins with gratitude before turning to service. 


The Words We Say

November 11, 2016

I was clever enough in my formative years to know that I usually knew the correct answer. I was not clever enough to know that there could be more than one right answer. And I absolutely did not allow myself the cognitive space to decide for myself. I knew what I had been taught: good girls said/acted/thought this and that was that. 

With personality differences within my household I began to tease out opinions from fact, but it was in the early stages of intellectual independence at best. That beginning has come back to be helpful now, as I’m able to differentiate a personality quirk from doctrine or culture, but as for my personal development it was wholly inadequate. 

Thus I found myself in my mid twenties saying things I had been taught to say and only barely beginning the process of thinking how I felt. Usually the reflection didn’t even happen until after some push back from someone who challenged my assertions. I’m so grateful for that. It stung every time I realized I had said something I hadn’t studied and couldn’t stand behind, but it provided the push I needed to be real with myself. It still stings when I think back on those things; it takes a lot of compassion to forgive yourself of prior stupidity. 

For all those times I was ridiculously wrong, painfully tone deaf, or outright insensitive I’m sorry. And because of that I hope that many of the ridiculously wrong, painfully tone deaf, or outright insensitive things I hear others say are equally premature statements. We are learning and growing, our opinions evolving over time. 

So let me be clear about how I really feel. I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I’m still learning but I hope that every time I am wrong in the future it is because I erred too much on the side of compassion. I have so far to go, but I’m trying to think before I speak. Other people’s talking points are no good for me. 


Late Night Thoughts on Parenting

October 22, 2016

I’m not sure this baby is related to me. He doesn’t like sleep and he doesn’t like food. How could anyone not like sleep and not like food? Those are my raison d’ĂȘtre.

I am really seriously considering doing away with the crib and moving him into the toddler bed. Maybe he just doesn’t like baby jail? 

Red didn’t ever really sleep in the crib. He and Jack thought it nothing more than a bounce house. 

Maybe I’m not failing at this baby sleep thing any more this time than the other times it’s just that my fatigue dulls the memories. 


13 Months

October 19, 2016

I’m pretty sure cutting the umbilical cord was a part of my surgery last year, but it seems my little one never got the memo. I am never, ever alone. 

I do love him. To help me deal with the constancy of his needs I recall bathing him with my tears when he and Paul went home, leaving me in the hospital. Some day he will be bigger and won’t need me so much and I’ll be glad I gave him my everything. (And in the meantime I have chocolate.)


Of Glue Guns and Cleaning Caddies

October 16, 2016

When I left LA, I left my cleaning caddy and cleansers with one of the friends who helped me move. It was really a gift to me to not have to take it in the car, and with open products the movers wouldn’t take it in the truck; besides we were cleaning long after the truck was packed.

It’s now four and a half years later and the other day she texted me a photo of the caddy and told me that she still thinks of me and our friendship every time she uses it. To be fair, as young mothers a lot of our friendship did revolve around helping each other clean or talking to each other while we cleaned. 

Today as I pulled out my glue gun to work on my littlest’s Halloween costume I had to text her and tell her that I still think of her every time I use it. You see, she had been scandalized to discover that I was a card carrying Mormon woman who didn’t own a glue gun. Worried they’d revoke my membership she picked up a mini gun for me on her next trip to Walmart. It probably didn’t cost more than $5 but it continues to serve me well and remind me of her. 

As we chuckled today over the mundane items that remind us of our friendship it occurred to me that those are the best symbols of friendship. 

We weren’t casual acquaintances. Our friendship wasn’t based on lunch dates or mani/pedis. We lived in tandem. We served each other. We were there for each other at the crossroads as well as the minutiae. 

A cleaning caddy and a glue gun. That’s true love and living right there. 


The Lost Decades of My Life

September 14, 2016

Tonight as I reflected on a conversation I had today with my friend (and fellow den leader) Anna, I joked with Paul that I’m going to die very young. He replied “you’ll be fine” which is missing the point entirely of my search for support or validation. He can’t help me from his hotel room in El Paso, he couldn’t help me if he were here anyway because he needs to sleep so he can work and keep us alive and all that. The least he could do is provide a little sympathy. Is an echo chamber too much to ask?

Anna had been chiding me for not taking more control of sleep, basically. I tossed it off and said that none of my babies slept well until about 18 months but in the end they became excellent sleepers. She countered that in the meantime all those nights are erasing years off my life expectancy. 

Before I even read my scriptures tonight little man had awoken twice. I’m sure it’s that he’s teething but I acknowledge that we have some poor sleeping patterns and that I haven’t been vigilant at stamping them out. The reality is my sleep is just not as important as the sleep of the breadwinner or the sleep of the schoolchildren. I made progress this summer but regressed when the nurse raised the issue of insufficient caloric intake; I went back to feeding whenever and wherever even if it was hourly through the night. By the time things were back to pre-summer bad habits it was time for school again and my window of opportunity had closed. 

Sometimes it doesn’t bother me. I know this won’t last forever. And I know that I will never again cuddle my baby in the middle of the night once this phase is over with him. Usually I’m able to appreciate the sweetness and forget myself. 

Other times I feel like I’m being held hostage. It’s hard to not be a person equally important as everyone else.