"God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us." (St. John Paul the Great)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Seven Quick Takes - Volume 12

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-- 1 --

I haven't been writing much lately. Mostly because when I started this blog one of the main reasons I did so was to focus on the JOY in life, something I have to be intentional about because it doesn't always come naturally for me. And to be honest, I've been having a hard time lately. It's been a long year. And I'm spent. But one of the things I've come to appreciate about many of you, my fellow bloggers, is how real you are, how transparent, how not afraid to admit your failings and frustrations. And I've found encouragement and support here that I never imagined when I began this endeavor. Because sometimes life is hard. Sometimes life is messy. Sometimes we're mad and sad and crabby. Sometimes we need to whine a little bit. At least I do. I'm writing this post to get some things off my chest and, hopefully, to be able to move on and begin writing JOYfully again. Consider yourself warned and proceed with caution.

-- 2 --

Relocating to a new place can be an exciting thing, yes. But moving five times, preparing for the sixth, in eleven years, with four children, is not my idea of a good time. In fact, moving is probably on my top-five list of least favorite things to do. Even more so when one is preparing to move into a house one doesn't want. Yes, we finally found a house. The flooding in Bismarck forced our hand. Housing is becoming even harder to obtain than it was before the flood hit. And, as more and more people have had to evacuate, renting has become impossible. I do not like the house we bought, but we had little choice. I cried and pouted for two days after we made the offer. I was mad. I am still sad and frustrated. I am ready to be settled and all I can see is what needs to be done to this house to make it "fine" until we can find what I really want -- something bigger. It sounds petty when I put it in words. After all, it's just a house. I know being "settled" is a silly thing to want because life can change at any moment. But I'm giving up something I've looked forward to for so long, almost our whole marriage. Graduate school is finally over, it's time to settle down a little bit and stay put. I like to entertain and this house doesn't have a formal dining room or a big enough kitchen to have another family over for a meal. I don't like the four-level layout. I'll have to share a bathroom with my clothes-pile-leaving-toothpaste-gooping-non-flushing kids. I'll never be able to take a bath without scrubbing the tub first. I don't like having the television in the main room of the house, but there's really no where else to put it. I like to keep the toys out of the bedrooms (where they complicate bedtime and the morning routine) and the schoolroom (where they distract), but the only other option is the dungeon, which needs some major work to turn it into a suitable playroom. And where in the world are we going to put the girls' dance floor and the elliptical? The garage?

-- 3 --

That brings me to my next lament: Irish dance, or the lack thereof. I really miss watching the girls compete and perform, even more than I thought I would. It was so fun for me. And for them. And they're good. And they still practice at home at least four days a week. And Miss Rose, especially, still misses it terribly and sheds tears on a monthly basis. And I haven't had time to do anything about it. And I don't know if I should, as much as I want to. And what are the other options? (As an aside: This week, finally, I have an opportunity to write a letter in support of importing more certified Irish dance instructors to the United States. If you live in an area that does not have access to Irish dance, and you are interested, especially if you live in the Bismarck area, please let me know and I can tell you how you can help by writing a similar letter.)

-- 4 --

Not only have I not found a way for the girls to keep up on their Irish dance, besides practicing at home, I did not sign my kids up for a single activity this past year, and they have nothing on the calendar for this summer. The girls saved up for half the cost of horse camp, like they usually do, but I haven't done anything about it. They've asked about swimming lessons and camps, but I haven't done anything about it. And, the thing is, it would be good for them, to meet people and get out of the house, but it would also be good for me to get them out of the house for a while ...

-- 5 --

... because I feel like the worst Mom ever lately. I need a break. Is it okay to admit that I don't even want to be around my kids lately? What will people think of me if I say that? Please tell me that once in a while you get so tired of doing and saying the same things over and over and over that you just want to scream or flee. Please tell me that sometimes you're convinced that your children have to be either disobedient, stupid, or deaf -- there's no other explanation, like "they're still children and they're learning" -- and you hope they're deaf, because that seems preferable to stupidity or disobedience.

This is a typical mood for me in early summer, after a long school year and a long winter, made even longer this year by Mother Nature and our inability to get out of the house on occasion. I need a break. Usually all I have to do is attend the Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference at the end of May/beginning of June, and that gets me all revved up for another school year, excited about the possibilities, confirmed in our choice to home school. I wasn't able to attend this year. Big mistake.

Instead I've been reading Homeschooling with Gentleness. Last week I read:
We can sum up very quickly what people need to teach their own children. First of all, they have to like them, enjoy their company, their physical presence, their energy, foolishness, and passion. They have to enjoy all their talk and questions, and enjoy equally trying to answer those questions. They have to think of their children as friends, indeed very close friends, have to feel happier when they are near and miss them when they are away.
And you know what I thought? That's not me. I can't do it. I need to put the kids in school.

And what's worse? My feeling like a terrible mother has translated into the kids feeling like they are terrible kids. Which makes me feel even more like a terrible mother. It's a vicious cycle.

-- 6 --

And I certainly can't do it alone. And that's how I feel lately. Alone. Yes, I have my faith -- if I didn't I'd be institutionalized by now. And, yes, I have met several wonderful ladies here in Bismarck. And for that I'm grateful. But it takes time to establish relationships. I miss my old friends -- the kind of friends you can drop in on any time, without doing your hair or changing from the shirt your toddler wiped her nose on, the kind of friends from whose refrigerator (and wine cellar) you can help yourself, the kind of friends you can whine and cry and complain to without fear they're never going to want to spend time with you again, the kind of friends from whom you receive hugs and unconditional love and support. I miss my spiritual director. I miss my dad's science lessons and my sister-in-law's art lessons. I miss the children's museum and the science museum and the historical society and the zoo and the parks. I miss the familiarity that comes with living in a place for a long time and knowing where to go and what to do when you need a change of routine. I miss regular haircuts. I miss my doctor -- I want more babies, but I'm scared here without her.

And I want my husband, who left for Italy on Tuesday and won't be back until July 1. I want to celebrate his accomplishments together. Yes, the dissertation is done! But the job is just beginning, and it's a big job, starting a new program. And we both want it to succeed. I want to work with him on building the Catholic Studies program at the University. But I also want to go on vacation as a family, a real, long, don't-have-to-bring-any-work-with-us-for-the-first-time-in-I-don't-know-how-long summer vacation. I want to enjoy being with my family again.

-- 7 --

The first part of Lent this past year I learned an important, I would have said at the time "life-changing," lesson. I learned the importance of gratitude and its role in bringing JOY to my life.

Perhaps the biggest frustration of all right now is that I am such a slow learner, so incapable of changing. I so easily forget what I know to be true and let my emotions rule. This lesson of simple gratitude, which brought so much joy, was so easily forgotten, and I can't seem to get it back. And I have a hard time accepting my failings. I have a hard time accepting God's unconditional love for me. I have a hard time trusting Him.

I learned that, "Life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change." And yet I complain and long for something other than what I've been given. And I've been given a lot. Why can't I be happy that we have a house? Why can't I be grateful that my house is not being flooded? that my husband has a job? that I have four beautiful children who love me?

I could have written this, it so resonates in my soul:
In this wilderness, I keep circling back to this: I'm blind to joy's well every time I really don't want it. The well is always there. And I choose not to see it. Don't I really want joy? Don't I really want the fullest life? For all my yearning for joy, longing for joy, begging for joy -- is the bald truth that I prefer the empty dark? Prefer drama? Why do I lunge for control instead of joy? Is is somehow more perversely satisfying to flex control's muscle? ... Do I think Jesus-grace too impotent to give me the full life? Isn't that the only reason I don't always swill the joy? If the startling truth is that I don't really want joy, there's a far worse truth. If I am rejecting the joy that is hidden somewhere deep in this moment -- am I not ultimately rejecting God? Whenever I am blind to joy's well, isn't it because I don't believe in God's care? That God cares enough about me to always offer me joy's water, wherever I am, regardless of circumstance. But if I don't believe God cares, if I don't want or seek the joy He definitely offers somewhere in this moment -- I don't want God.... You have to want to see joy, God in the moment.... Only self can kill joy. I'm the one doing this to me.... The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy -- nothing else. Pride, mine -- that beast that pulls on the mask of anger -- that is what snaps this hand shut, crushes joy. (from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp)
And so, I struggle. I fall. I get up again. I count on my God, whose mercies are new each day.

And I ask for your prayers.

Thanks for listening,
Michelle

(For more quick takes, hopefully of the more upbeat kind, visit Jen.)

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for being YOU.:)

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  2. I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling right now, but really, it's understandable given your circumstances. A move is a huge adjustment and especially one where you feel as though it wasn't necessarily a change for the better. And even without moving, yes, there have been times when I wanted to hide form my children and just be! Like I mentioned over at Grace's blog, I find myself telling my older children alot lately that their feelings are an expression of their soul. They cannot change them. You feel what you feel and to try to deny those feelings is to separate body and soul which is like killing yourself a little inside since body and soul only separate in death. Where they do have control is how the react or respond to those feelings. That's where their choice lies. I hope you feel better soon. We will pray for warmth and sunshine to be sent your way. Goodness knows we have plenty!

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  3. ((((((Hugs )))))

    Burn out happens, as much as we love our children and as much as we try to live with an intentional joyful spirit. Sometimes, often, maybe even almost always, our lives don't always turn out the way we dreamed. We don't live in the house we want or know in our hearts would be great for family life. We don't live in the city where our kids have the opportunities we want them to have. We often don't have the friends and support we need and the older and busier we get the harder it is to cultivate these deep friendships. Worst of all we don't seem to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is bearing all twelve fruits in us and we wonder what is wrong with us spiritually. Sometimes we no longer feel that we are called to home school, but continue because we feel we have no other choice. All of this is normal and you are not alone!

    First - do anything you have to do to take a few breaks from your children. Hire a babysitter while your husband is gone. This is not selfish "me time" as much as it is for the sake of your family. Get out alone to a coffee shop, bookstore, library or museum. Send the kids outside every day when the baby is napping. Spend time in prayer, re-ordering your schedule and chore charts, reading just for you.

    Second - arrange for an influx of positive input. Read the "burnout" chapter in Elizabeth Foss's book. Download some talks by homeschooling moms of many to listen to when you take walks. Order some CDs from the Catholic conference you missed online. Many of the CDs from Vision Forum have helped me this year - they are practical and Biblical. Keep the input pathways positive and constructive.

    Third - keep having faith that God has a plan for your life and your children. He will put your passions and talents to use, though all in His time. Perfect is the enemy of good. You will live to tell others how you overcame all the obstacle He put before you. Obstacles to desires that are good, wholesome, and worthy of His blessings. Keep knocking at His door!

    And one more - please put in a word for bringing Irish dance to Elk River too! I saw in our local paper that the organizer of the Irish Festival lives here in Elk River, teaches exercise classes at the Y but there is no Irish Dance here! I would love for our girls to continue in dance, but the Ballet Academy here might be too time and money intensive for us!

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  4. I don't know why I didn't see this post until now, but I wish you still lived next door so I could give you a giant hug. I'm actually very teary eyed typing this now. You have hit on so many real and true points that resonate with so many mothers! love to you.

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Thanks for stopping by!