Wednesday, November 04, 2009

identity crisis'

My brain is churning too fast for sleep. I dragged my body out of bed and awakened the beast that is my computer in order to pound the keys until my thoughts have escaped my head.


I remember getting my patriarchal blessing shortly before I left home for college. My mind was all a whirl with thoughts of majors and programs and classes and school. And then my blessing came out and told me that the strength of my talents would lie in homemaking. Homemaking. I was the girl who'd always looked down my nose at the FHA. (And look, they've changed their name because of snobs like me.) They were powerful words at the time, and I couldn't have anticipated how true I would (do!) need them to be.

My problem is that the talents I spent most of my energy developing during my youth were the talents of being a student. The talents of regurgitating in just the manner a teacher required, the talent of testing well, the talent of overcommiting myself, the talent of appearing awake when in reality I was dead-asleep through a lecture. Unfortunately, these are not proving to be particularly useful life skills in the long run.

Lifelong learning aside, I am no longer a student. This part of my personae that I allowed to be maybe too important in the construction of my identity has left a gaping hole that I've never quite successfully patched over.

I had no idea I was doing anything wrong as I constructed this problem for myself. I grew up in the era of feminist entitlement, so everybody from every direction encouraged me to excel academically and to have career goals. I was one of those girls who would never have answered "a mom" when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. In retrospect, I'm not certain that this is because I didn't want to be a mom most of all, but I think that feminism tainted me awfully young with it's insidious message that homemaking and mothering are not enough. (Remember this struggle?)

And now I find myself dealing everyday with the holes. I know in my head, and even in my heart that there is nothing else I could be doing that is more valuable than being with my kids, teaching them and guiding them through life. Yet I find myself constantly pulled into discontent and distracted by desires to be doing more glamorous things with more instant gratification. And the more I let that sway my thinking, the more discontent I am.

It's a vicious cycle to heap on top of my already sad state of sleep deprivation.

I'd like to take this moment to mention that yet again Seeing the Everyday and the Ensign arrived exactly when most needed.

I can sense on every level that I need a massive paradigm shift. I need to take all the energy I'm spending pining over design projects, crafts, floral ideas, and exorbitant desserts and devote it to my personal scripture study, personal prayer, and interactions with my kids.

Written like that is sounds simple and doable, right? Well for some reason real-life is proving more complicated. I've been fighting an uphill battle with myself trying to make this paradigm shift happen, or at least start, for weeks. It appears that my mild, seemingly benign desires, tendencies and preferences are snowballing into an issue - a barrier between me and spiritual progression.

This is an instance of the natural man sneaking in unannounced, and to me it is evidence of how wily (and real) the devil is. He knows I feel strongly about doing what I'm doing, so rather than try to convince me I should be somewhere else, he's just been wedging in my worldly preferences, with the angle of creating discontent. Sometimes I'd really like to sock him and tell him to leave me alone.

So, I'm slowly figuring it all out. I'm slowly learning how to change my priorities so that the strength of my talents really will lie in being a homemaker and a mother in Zion. I'm trying to not miss my kids growing up before my eyes because I'm too busy pining over pretty pictures and clever crafts.

Does this seem contradictory? Aren't beautification and craftiness a part of homemaking?
Well, therein lies the rub. It's not a matter of flat-out-banishment. It's a matter of restoring balance.
It's like being addicted to overeating, as opposed to an illicit addiction. You can't just stop eating, cold turkey. You must always eat, you have to relearn how. It's infinitely trickier. (Although both are completely overwhelming).

Have I diverged into enough tangents for you? I never claimed to have a cohesive train of thought, especially while lying in bed, staring at the ceiling fan and kicking myself.

But, having spewed all of that I feel a bit better, maybe now sleep can win out over the pacing critical self-analysis.

Possibly even before the Captain wakes up again......


hairyshoefairy said...

So well said, which is impressive with your lack of sleep, I must say. I find myself slowly figuring it out. And I feel really good about it sometimes. That feeling usually lasts a week tops, then the balance gets all screwed up again. It's so frustrating. I can really relate to this post, Em. You're not alone. I like the photo btw. Real.

Amber said...

That was a very heartfelt and heartheard message. I feel the same way somtimes, but the truth is the devil can make us feel discontentment in everything we do. That's just his game. I do feel that we are all still "students" we can constantly learn from our children and from our Heavenly Father. Each day our best looks different.

aLi said...

You nailed it on the head for me. I felt the same way as a young girl when asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I did NOT want to answer Mom. I knew it would happen anyway, so why bother preparing for it when I could be learning for other jobs that would pay me money!? It has been a struggle for me, too.
Curse Satan! He knows exactly how to break up a family.

--jeff * said...

i love that you can write so openly and honestly and clearly.

at school, you were the best upm i ever worked with. you had a natural talent for it. and that's not unlike being the "mom" for the myriad of problems on set.
i don't think your time spent on scholastic and academic pursuits were misguided at all. taking classes in the mfhd building instead of the hfac may have offered some new insights, but there was a lot to learn about life and people from studying all those documentaries and story structures. it actually provides a lot about understanding people. couple that with the extreme physical endurance demands of a student film set and you're on a good start to prepare for motherhood.

that you are trying, working, and recognizing where you'd like to close the gaps speaks that you're on the right path and doing better than you may feel. and those aren't idle words.

lastly, i really dig that picture. excellent.

The Hodges Family said...

I love your honest postings...makes me feel not so alone. Daily struggles as a mom....when everyone else I see is enjoying every moment of it....Love you Em! Youre doing an AWESOME job!

The Perry Family said...

Wow, you said it! As I read that, I really felt like I was reading one of my own journal entries. There are so many nights I've lost sleep, so many days I wished I could be doing something that validated me, my talents and my desires. I knew becoming a mother was inevitable, but I often thought it would come later.

You know, it's just like you said, you're doing what you're supposed to be and that there's nothing more important, and really, no where else you'd rather be.
It is a constant battle, a battle you're willing to fight everyday.

I can't say what one thing has helped me, probably because there are many and it is a process, (maybe being done with dental school:)) but I do know that there has been a change in me and I enjoy motherhood more than ever and gulit free-most of the time. I sleep much better at night and our home is much happier. I feel that my enjoyment will grow and deepen, but I have to have patience and not expect unrealistic things of myself. I know you said that you're not a "student" aside of the life long learning, but your "student" skills can be applied to your learning as a mother. Just because we have kids doesn't mean we know how to be mothers. Allow yourself to make mistakes, to grow and learn, and to have patience with yourself.
I've noticed while I parent, I say so many things to my kids that I could probably imagine Heavenly Father saying to me. And yes, that makes me feel guilty and like a hypocrite, but then I remember that I'm learning to be a mother and I didn't just come with these capabilities.
Wow, I didn't mean to write a chapter, so I'm done now. Except for this, Emily, you're doing a great job! Really, you are. You are those boys' mother for a reason. Heavenly Father loves you and your boys, and he trusts you and what you can become.

pepper said...

Ahhh yes... love this post. It all feels very familiar. Thanks for being so open. It's nice to not feel alone.

Martha said...

I loved reading your post, Emily. Truly beautiful. As I venture into this new realm of motherhood, I'm having to change my focus and realize what I need to do to find balance as a wife, mother, and woman. It's definitely not easy, and as you said, you can't never do crafts or other desires of your heart. Balance is the key, and I don't think it's a state of balance everyday that matters, but rather us working towards a state of balance. We all drift one way or the other throughout our lives, but as we refocus, revamp our lives, and recommit ourselves to being mothers without loosing sight that we are also daughters of God, we are blessed with insight, knowledge, strength, and courage to live our lives... live them in the present, creating and beautifying our world. Love you Em.

Chell said...

Is it bad of me to admit that I kinda turned my back on my patriarchal blessing. I have no testimony of their validity because mine is sooo far off base. Like the fact I should have been married over a decade ago among other things.

So I say don't be too hard on yourself. You are a great mom and a wonderful woman.

Aubrey said...

ummm. The caveat of being an LDS woman. It is always difficult for me as well. To remember that good is not always best, and trying to be and do all is not as good as just being "mom". In the end it is not about the well sewn Halloween costumes, it how well I have taught and loved my little ones. A struggle we all face, certainly. You described it beautifully.

Madison Nibley said...

Dear Emily,
I was watching Alexis' Grandpa-in-law the other week. He just recently turned 102! and he's as healthy as a horse. Due to his age, he forgets a lot of the things he has already told you. And while he's in the middle of the story that he's already told you three times, he is again reminded of the current story he is telling you and starts all over. It's adorable.
The reason any of this relates is because the stories he kept telling me over and over agian were the stories of events that strengthened his testimony.
I found this so amazing becuaes after 102 years of living, the only things that mattered to him were his testimony, his family, and icecream:D All of the other crazy events (war, his carrer, etc.) paled in comparision to the way he spoke so excitedly, lovingly, and passionately, about the things that mean the most to him as he draws to the end of his life.
I think this is an important message to EVERYONE, but reading your post, i felt like you could really hear this :D

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