Posted in musings, quotes

letting go

My therapist used to tell me, “it isn’t your business what other people think of you.” I’m still not sure I completely agree with her, since what other people think can occasionally have fairly large consequences on a practical level (promotions at work, for example) – but in general it’s correct. I’m entitled to my beliefs and opinions, and other people are entitled to theirs. Someone else might think I’m antisocial or making poor parenting choices because I want to homeschool; I might think someone is arrogant and disconnected from local community because they are a snowbird. But if I choose to live my life based on the thoughts of others about me and my decisions, I’ll be miserable (just like all those snowbirds would be, sweltering here all summer without the communities they grew up in, or being shut in all winter there because they can’t shovel themselves out anymore).

I have to let it go. Continue reading “letting go”

Posted in musings

learning who I want to be; remembering who my foremothers were

On Friday my therapist asked me who I wanted to be: what positive self-image I wanted to move towards. If we’re going to make a therapy plan, after all, it helps to have a long-term goal.

I couldn’t think of anything.

I have a very clear mental image of who I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be the one with the chronically messy/dirty house because she’s too lazy and undisciplined to get things cleaned and organized. I don’t want to be the mom who lets her kids watch TV so she can get some quiet time or a nap in the middle of the day, because she cares more about herself than about her kids’ developing brains. I don’t want to be the mom who over-schedules her kids’ lives so they have no time to free play and explore; I don’t want to be the mom who lets her kids wander around in self-directed ways so much that they bother the neighbors and never learn manners and miss out on awesome events and opportunities. I don’t want to be seen as discourteous or ignorant. I don’t want to admit that I can’t handle the beautiful and blessed life I’m living because other people handle lives that are so much harder with so much more ease and grace. I don’t want to be who I am, because my self-image is all wrapped up in shame.

So I’d been thinking about her question since the appointment, and as my daughter smiled at me that evening I remembered the women who have always been my inspiration, the women who made me want a daughter of my own so I could pass on their memories someday:

The great-grandmother who passed away when I was six, who shines so brightly in my mother’s memory that I wish I could have known her myself, who knew a poem for every circumstance (and wrote her own as well), who always had an open door and good food, who saw the world through rose-colored lenses that enabled her to believe the best of everyone she loved – whose faith in God, in humanity, in her family, was deep and strong.

The grandmother whose life has been full of challenges, who endured miscarriage, mental illness, and a string of alcoholic husbands after her first marriage fell apart, but who never lost her heart for helping others or her buoyant optimism and goofy joy, who managed a warehouse of donated goods for those in need as a volunteer when she herself was quite poor, who got down on the floor and played with my boys with energy and zest for life, who as a young white woman in the 50s and 60s wanted to adopt children of all different ethnicities, who has such a love for children that she fostered more in addition to raising her own – whose hope through suffering and trials never died.

The mother who always seeks to honor her family and friends with her words and doesn’t let a disagreement or a quarrel turn into bitterness or lasting anger, who taught me the joy of baking and cooking and watching people enjoy the fruit of your labor, who gives of herself unceasingly to the people she loves and the responsibilities she takes on, who is never sentimental but always supportive, who defied the odds of her upbringing to earn not only a bachelor’s but a master’s degree in engineering, who has a song for every situation, who thoroughly gets into the competitive clash of board games and card games and teases us mercilessly – whose love for her family is self-sacrificial, unwavering, unconditional.

I am not any one of those women, nor could I be some amalgam of their best qualities alone; I’m as human as they were, and I have my faults and weaknesses as well. But I see in them the full ripeness of seeds that lie buried in my own soul also, which I would be honored and privileged to have blossom in my life. Can I have the generosity of spirit which made them spring up like a fountain of blessing for their families and communities, or the exuberance with which they approached life, or their ability to find joy and see beauty in the little things, and thus hold on to hope and faith and love when the big things are hard and broken?

I am sure those things will take on a different form in my life than in my mother’s, my grandmother’s, and my great-grandmothers, because I live in a different time and place and am a different person. The hard work now will be in discerning exactly how they might look for me, here and now, because I know now that their image, their fallen human image reflecting God through brokenness and redemption, is the positive image I want to work towards.

Posted in musings, Uncategorized

thoughts upon meeting a therapist

So, I rather suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly made an appointment with a therapist through the Employee Assistance Office at my place of employment (how lucky am I to have an EAO with full-time therapists and even a psychiatrist on staff? With a wait time of less than a week?), after contemplating it on and off for the last 6 years. I’m not sure what I expected, but we basically just talked about all my problems for an hour 😛 Actually, it’s a sign of how down I have been feeling that I couldn’t think of anything to say when she asked me what my strengths were…

Overall, the appointment was far less emotional than I feared (thanks to my therapist’s supportive and professional demeanor, not the probing questions that triggered some tears on my end) and far more encouraging than I anticipated. At the end of the session we came up with some long-term goals for the therapy and some short-term assignments for me to work on during the two weeks before my next appointment, which in and of itself gave me a lot of hope about how I’ve been feeling. As I’m just beginning to realize, I do much better in life when I have a plan for how to deal with things. When I was a teenager, I always struggled with cleaning my room because I never knew where to start and all the details of the task fell on top of me at once and overwhelmed me. When I was in the hospital with Aubade earlier this month, especially during that first night just waiting and watching without knowing what I was waiting and watching for, the nebulous pressure of the desire for progress without knowing how to define that progress was the hardest aspect of the whole ordeal. And so it makes sense that having a path forward illuminated for me, with defined steps to take, is going to be helpful now in the pursuit of hope and healing in these emotional issues.

The long-term goals are mine, so they aren’t exactly measurable or professional; I just want to be rid of the irrational anxiety and to feel happier in general. The short-term assignments, however, are incredibly specific. Every day my “homework” is to get out of bed, shower, and get dressed in something other than pajamas (before my husband has to leave for school), and five days a week I need to spend some time outside. These are very doable things, even if they aren’t always easy things, depending on just how bad I’m feeling when I wake up, and that’s the point. Setting a goal and meeting that goal is going to give me quantifiable substance to refute the negative self-talk of the depression, and it’s also going to help me build a routine of self-care to help mitigate the negative emotional effects of the depression. While they may seem incredibly trivial to someone who isn’t struggling mentally or emotionally (they’re things I’ve definitely taken for granted in the past), they give me an attainable standard for my day and supply some “knowns” to fill in the horrible vast stretch of time that is each day in which I’m responsible for myself and my children and all of our activities.

I was explaining this to my husband by saying that if I get up, shower, get dressed, get outside, and make a healthy dinner for the family, I can define that as a successful day. I can lower my standards, in essence, to something definable and attainable, instead of reaching for an unknown and ever-changing perfection. Obviously the less measurable metrics of success are more important, as my husband pointed out: did I love my children? Did I live by faith? Did I seek God? Did I live an abundant and beautiful human life? etc. And those are things I strive for. But those are things I can never do perfectly or completely. I can always love my children better! So if that is my metric for success, I will always fall short, and I will always look back on the day with guilt for the sharp words and the missed opportunities instead of with happiness over the fun shared and the relationships built.

Could I have created this set of goals and standards on my own, and reframed success this way without help? It seems simple, but I probably couldn’t have. Having an outside source help formulate the plan validates it in a way my depression can’t so easily attack – if it had come just from me, I’d probably work it into my depressive tailspin by bemoaning how pathetic I was for needing to stipulate such small and trivial things. So I am quite glad I finally stopped worrying about whether or not I actually needed help, and stopped caring about what it would mean about me that I did need help, and actually went and got help. I would recommend it to anyone out there who might think some help would be nice – you don’t have to be non-functional or suicidal to benefit from a listening ear and some experienced guidance.