Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Help. (The real help.)

My aunt (Brad's aunt) Diana called the other night. To say she was sorry. And to offer encouragement.

My Grandma called.

And then my mom called this morning. Crying. Told me she thought people were taking care of me here, where we live. Where she cannot be.

And (if I may be cliche for a moment) what she said hit me like a ton of bricks.

Because, yeah. Sunday was bad. All I could see on Sunday (and on many days like it such as grocery-shopping day) was my misbehaving children and a crying baby and an annoyed woman and my pitiful, incomplete, imperfect attempts at motherhood.

But today. Today. After a little space. Today I can remember that I ran to the bathroom with Claire in my hand and sobbed big great gaspy sobs on the step stool in front of the sink. When I heard the door open, I didn't try to put on a happy face. Because, seriously. It was obvious I'd either been crying or had missapplied my blush in a streaky mess down my cheeks and stabbed my eyes with mascara. And the woman who came in didn't ask what was wrong. She said, "Oh, Elise," and wrapped me up in her arms and just let me cry. And every other woman that came in did the same. And none of them left. I don't know if they even actually ever used the restroom. They didn't ask me to explain. And it wasn't that I didn't trust them enough to tell them. It was that I couldn't talk about it. I couldn't think about it without wilting into a puddle of tears. And they didn't make me. They got me wrapped up in conversations about other things--houses, moving, babies, ward callings--until my face had cooled. And I could speak without weeping. And I could finish the remaining two hours of church without looking like a hot teary mess.

And then Monday, after blogging, as I pulled up to Grace's school to pick her up, a woman from my ward (who also happened to be in the car queue, waiting for her son) told me she had heard what had happened on Sunday (I don't know how) and although she couldn't find out who had said it ("because no one will gossip!"), she assumed that it was so-and-so (and it was--but I didn't say). And this incident was not this poor woman's only (or worst) offence. And, I felt... pacified.

And then. Well then I came home to a pile of messages from you. Perfect little packets of hope and help.

Several of you mentioned that I should not be afraid of asking for help. I am. I am terrified of asking for help. But this incident stung so that I couldn't ignore it. I couldn't laugh about it (as I usually do over life's tragedies--can't decide if that's healthy or demented). I couldn't get over it. I couldn't sort through my feelings of anger and disappointment and lonliness. So I blogged about it. I asked for help without even realizing it.

So today I can see God's hand in the incident. I can see that He gave me an opportunity to ask for help. I can see what He's been attempting to show me for a long time. When my mom called this morning, I could tell her that I have dear, sincere, loving, wonderful friends. I am taken care of. I am not alone. My efforts (dinky as they are) are not unobserved by Him. That He has given us each other to bear one another's burdens. And that my biggest burden is the fear of failure, and that sharing that fear turns out to not be so bad. That none of you thought, "Yeah, Elise. You're really a screw up." Not that you said, anyway.

And so today, armed with your encouragement and love and support, I largely ignored the laundry. And I played. It's not something I do. Usually I clean and cook and research on the internet the best way to: make a homemade Christmas, bake dinner rolls, take hard water stains out of toilets. I guess I'm looking for a way to measure my success. To feel like I've accomplished something. And I suppose my failure and feelings of overwhelment (yes. I'm making that a word.) stem from never really succeeding. Never being done. I mean, laundry is never. done. And the living room never stays clean for two consecutive hours.

And for today it was okay to not accomplish anything (in the strictest sense of the word). I guess the encouragement made me feel like earning my way to happiness and self-satisfaction was... unnecessary?

So Weston and I played chase around the pantry in my kitchen. Claire and I played pirates. Then we played restaurant and she made me mop the kitchen/dining/living room floor for her customers while she dried it so they wouldn't slip (which is, well, the most fun/productive [fun-ductive?] thing I've ever done, even though the floor is now covered in crumbs again from who knows what). Grace and I sat through piano practice without fighting. We even laughed.

I'm not saying that I'm cured of being overwhelmed and distraught or hopeless. Tomorrow I may be psycho again. But I am saying thank you for reminding me of hope. Thank you for bearing my burden. For being an army of support and help. For being the world's best and sincerest and dearest friends. I can't tell you enough what it has meant.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I really hope this is rock bottom.

It might be the dreary weather. It could be the early onset of nighttime (4:00). It's probably just me. My choice. My attitude. Whatever it is, I've been having a rough time. Not quite sure how long it's been going on. It feels like forever. Like maybe since Wes was born. I just feel consistently overwhelmed. Never quite caught up. I'll get really close to under control, and then, suddenly, the next day, I'll walk past my laundry "hall" and see this:

Yeah. I have no shame. Just keepin' it real, peeps.

And then somewhere along the way I became a yeller. My poor children. Every night I pray that they know I love them. Because I'm not sure my behavior is good evidence.

I've been unloading things from my responsibility plate in an effort to cope. Grace (for many reasons, in addition to this one) is now in a charter school where she dons snappy uniforms and has tested at a fourth grade language arts/spelling level. I've started calling in to my cub scout committee meetings (where I am currently serving as the primary counselor, cub scout master, and webelos den leader) because I can't seem to get my trash out of the door on a Sunday to actually physically be at the meeting.

Anyway. In a nutshell, I feel like a failure as a mother/homeschooler/housekeeper/church person.

Yesterday I was sitting alone on a bench in our church building. Brad had taken Weston out of the meeting during the administration of the sacrament because he was whining. Our meeting buildings don't really have crying rooms behind the rest of the seats. If they did, we would probably start out sitting there from the beginning.

If you recall, my daughters don't know how to whisper. So, as they quietly chattered, I  constantly reminded them to whisper so we could avoid disturbing the sweet middle-aged couple in front of us and the dear single woman behind us. I told Claire she'd have to wait for just a few more minutes to go to the bathroom. I was trying to think about Jesus. And put on a happy face. And set an example for my munchkins. Because sometimes it feels like that's the only reason I'm there: to establish a pattern.

That's when I saw a woman rise from the front row and begin to leave the chapel. She came toward us on her way out. She stopped at the bench in front of us where the Smith couple sat. She said (rather loudly) to Sister Smith, "I feel so sorry for you." When Sister Smith (shocked) asked why, she nodded at me. And my children. Then she smiled at the Smiths and sauntered on out.

It seemed like a good moment to take Claire to the bathroom. And that's where I spent the rest of the meeting. Bawling my eyes out.

For a few minutes it didn't really feel like going to church was worth it. Not if we were ruining people's Sunday experience. And it confirmed my fears of failing as a mother.

Sister Smith called me that evening and told me her heart felt heavy. That she hadn't even heard my children. (I'm sure she meant that she was used to tuning children out. Otherwise she'd have had to be hard of hearing. Which she is not.) That when she joined the church her children were young and she struggled to keep them quiet. That she knew from experience that I was making valiant efforts as a mother. That Heavenly Father loves me and appreciates my taking children to church even when they aren't grasping it.

I cried again. And thanked her. And felt a little better.

But I still haven't felt any less overwhelmed. I am still struggling with inadequacy and discouragement. And the nightmare of failing. Is this something I struggle with alone? How do you get happy? How do you convince yourself in your success as parents?