Friday, May 31, 2019

Vulnerable Trees and Mama Ducks

I left the ward picnic early last night and sat by this tree for a while. It didn't take long to notice that the tree had a big chunk missing, leaving the big vulnerable sky visible through a deep 'V' cutting towards the tree's center... It seemed to me that the pruner must have been a bit too vigorous with his pruning shears and had mistakenly lopped of a branch that was, in fact, important to the poor tree.

I empathized with it while I sat there for a few minutes. I think I know how it feels, because I feel that way too. Like there's a piece of me that has been mistakenly cut out, leaving me extra vulnerable and unsightly... A part of me that was, in fact, important to me. 

The part of me that likes ward picnics in the park. 

I hadn't even talked to anyone at the picnic before the buzzing in my core got so uncomfortable that I knew I couldn't stay. Anxiety, I think they call it. But anxiety over what? People? I guess the people part of me got lopped, I don't know. It's just that things got a little stuffy and tight as I watched people clumping together to chat, and I needed a bit more air to breathe.

The air by the vulnerable tree was perfect.

I sat there for a few more minutes and then the photographer part of my brain started thinking and I knew that if I just changed my perspective, the look of the whole tree would change.

So I started circling and, sure enough, I found a perspective in which the tree looked whole. 

And then, in a moment of magic as I circled the tree a bit more, the whole tree opened right up to show me its heart. 

Can you see the heart there in the middle of the tree? I love it. And I realized that the only way for this perspective to exist, was for the vulnerable perspective to exist, too.

It was a good reminder for me that I need to trust my own Master Pruner who is shaping my branches to His perspective. He is unconcerned about what His cuts might look like from the world's perspective, or even from my perspective. He's working through His perspective because He knows that His is eternal and is the only one that will truly matter in the end.

And, deep down, I believe that, too. So I must trust that he's cutting these seemingly important branches for a reason.

I may not love the ward parties or the crowds of people these days, but this mama duck reminded me that I sure love being a mama, and I am grateful that that branch is still in tact.

She had five little ducklings, just like me. And when she sensed me getting a little too close for a picture, I heard her warn her sleeping children with a short quack. The ducklings responded immediately with raised heads, and when the danger didn't go away, she led them away to safer shores.

Sorry for disturbing your slumber, Mama Duck. But thanks for giving me a beautiful moment to feel connected with another mother.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A New Direction - Hope and Simplicity

This blog has been a happy and beautiful place for me over the years. And I know it has been for many of you as well. I have spent countless hours with it, building it into the record and testimony it has become for me and my family. I have felt the Lord's hands guiding my own as I have typed some of my most sacred and precious memories here. I have felt the Lord's wisdom filling my own mind as I've been here seeking to understand my own experiences. This blog is full of His words and His wisdom and when I read back over it, I am taught all over again. My children read it, they look at the pictures, remember, and laugh - this place has been a true source of happiness and light.

But lately that light has turned dark, and for the past couple of years I have been frantically trying to bring that light back into my life. I've used that frantic energy to organize and categorize and edit my pictures, I've put them in drafts, I've slopped up words, working, working, working to catch up, catch up, catch up, always months behind... I've resolved to work harder and longer to catch up, catch up, WHY can't I catch UP? The pace of life is frantic and I have been frantic and my writing has been frantic and my pictures have been frantic because I've been trying, so hard, to record it all. 'Frantic' has turned this space overwhelming and discouraging, it taunts me with blank pages, reminds me that there are thousands of stories left undocumented, thousands of pictures not shared, and I've spent any precious little time I've had here feeding the Frantic, and trying to dodge all of the Should Haves and Didn't Dos and Deadlines and Keep Ups raining in my thoughts like hail.

I see it now. The Frantic. And it's a little embarrassing.

But, the fact that I see it at all is a small something to celebrate. Because through all of this time my mental health has been fragile and warped, and the past year has been especially heavy and foggy and broken. My life feels weird and my emotions are unpredictable and my brain is tired. It's tired of holding All the Things and feeling responsible for All the Things and trying to finish All the Things. I'm paralyzing myself with my own expectations, and I decided today that this has to stop. I have to stop, I have to slow down. Or I can't continue in the work of healing.

Today in sacrament meeting I listened to a wise and genuine man talk about finding joy in simplicity.  As he spoke I felt, deep inside of me, a faint warmth begin to radiate. For a moment I was grateful that the air conditioning had turned off, but the feeling was more still than that, and as my consciousness was brought into the experience I realized that it couldn't be the air conditioning. The warmth was coming from inside. And the buzzing tightness that has been a part of my core for months and months now was calmed. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. It was so faint - everything about it. So faint that I could have just as easily not noticed it. I stopped breathing for a moment and concentrated all of my energy into this small feeling and recognized it as the Spirit. Apparently a common experience that people who are struggling with depression notice is that it's very difficult to feel the Spirit in their depression, and I share this story. Prayers bounce back from the ceiling, fasts just feel hungry, and temple worship - nothing. And there, in that faint warmth - and, oh, was it faint - I felt like crying. I wasn't sure if it was because I was sad that it was just a whisper of a feeling I once felt so strongly, or if it was because I was grateful to be feeling it again at all.

But regardless, I listened, with everything in me, I listened. And the message I heard was about simplicity. I have a million questions about how a mother of five children lives with genuine simplicity, but I am on a quest to figure it out. I heard the prompting, and I will figure it out.

And I'll use this space to help. I will start, today, by dropping all of the expectations I have of myself regarding this blog and all it has come to symbolize. No more frantic energy. No more catching up. No more keeping up. No more beating myself up when I don't. I will write about whatever fills my mind in the brief moments I find to write.

I will not polish the words, I will not perfect the pictures, but my hope is that I will heal through this. Because I need a place to feel the Lord again, and I believe that that place can be here.