Wednesday, January 9, 2013

upon the altar

This post is perhaps the most vulnerable I've ever written on blogger.  So don't judge, k?

Once upon a time, I was quite the girl.  I was the Sterling Scholar at Davis High for Speech and Drama.  I was Oratory Captain in the DHS debate team, and I was invited to the national competition and also took third at state.  I was phoned up by a local two-year college with a heavy debate team and offered a scholarship by their coach.  I had a good GPA, and took and passed the AP US History, AP AB Calc, and AP Psych exams, each with a four.  (It's geeky, I know, but it's as cool as I get.)

I went to college on a full-ride scholarship for three years at SUU.  I then applied for a transfer to BYU, and received a one-year full ride scholarship there.  After having the time of my life, I figured it was time to actually get my degree, so I went back to SUU and finished up.  My graduation was summa cum laude.  Where I was the graduation speaker.

Now I'm a stay-at-home mother of two.  And nobody (even, or especially me) cares about a decade ago.  They care about dinner, clean clothes, and getting to watch as much Dora as they want.  I'm not very good at laundry.  I've learned to cook, but the house is usually less than stellar. (Read: I am lucky to find the floor in the girls' rooms.  I have no deep-cleaning schedule.  There's lots of crevices with dirt, which I only really see and think about when someone is at my house and I start feeling mortified.)

Here's the thing: Anything that most SAHMs judge themselves on, I really, really don't do well.  And, mostly, that's fine.  I know I have "other skills," let's just not make a list or anything.

As I look around on facebook, it seems to me that most of my contemporaries want to be doing something "besides" being at home.  So they start in with selling an MLM product.  Or marketing their photography, starting an Etsy shop, or going back to school.  Or something.  And if there's anything that has remained constant about my personality, it's that I don't do anything half-hearted.  If I pursue something, it usually has to be all-or-nothing.  And so (after having a few of these hobbies that never end, and seeing what it does to my family) I've just got to leave things like that alone, or it consumes me.  I get unhappy that my family takes as much time as they do, and unhappy that my hobbies take as much time as they do.  Nobody else is happy, either.  Not the somewhat-neglected kids, not Scott... no one.

Okay.  I've made my peace with that.  No serious hobbies for the present.

But what about someday?  I want to do something someday, and I want to be good at it.  Really good.  I swear I have that in me.  But without knowing what it will be that I'll want to do in, you know, fifteenish, twentyish years, I struggle with feeling like it will really come to fruition. 

I have laid my gift upon the altar, even if it is no more than saying "I won't get all crazy and pursue some hobby that distracts me from being the best mother I can" and I've told the Lord I'll forsake those things until the time is right.  And today, I have great confidence that He really will see my gift for being as wholehearted as it is for me, even if it's small.  And I feel full of assurance that he will bless me richly.

But sometimes,  the vagueness of the future engulfs me, and I wonder if I'm just done.  If my best days, at least in terms of passion, skill, and accomplishment, are over.

Now, please, despite allowing myself to be this vulnerable, I'd rather not hear vague condolences about how wonderfully talented I still am, even if I've given certain things up for the present.  To be blunt, I simply don't believe that right now, so it just feels empty and not-at-all-reassuring.

What is on my mind, what I do churn around somewhat endlessly in my head, is how do we choose faith over fear in a future that seems so flat?


Amanda said...

I'm almost in tears reading this post. The only reason I'm not is because I have 4 little 3 yr. olds at my house right now and I think that seeing me do that might worry them more than just a bit. With your recent blog posts, I swear that you have been living my life. Or at least peeking inside those parts of me that I don't usually make available to the general public.

Just a week or two ago, I told my husband that I feel like I've lost myself. I'm not that girl I was in college and even post-mission. I even thought about taking up something fun and interesting, in the hopes that doing so would help me find that girl again. But nothing sounds interesting enough to turn my head. It's not that I wish I were back in those places, because I don't. I just wish I had a little more of that girl where I could see her.

The main reason I usually keep these thoughts to myself thought is that I, too, do not want to hear, "but you're so good at x, y, and z." When people say that, I know that they just don't get it.

I wish I had some amazing words of wisdom for you. But all I can say is that you're not alone.

Jacki said...

I feel ya Mickelle. On the overachieving personality, on the need to do something ALL THE WAY, on the never measuring up in terms of domesticity. I feel like anything I get interested in takes me from my family and the things that are boring but have to be done everyday. I have to constantly battle to keep my interests in check and be realistic about time and the needs of my family.

At my sister's bachelorette night, my aunt went around the room and asked everyone "what do you want to be when you grow up?" All the 20 year olds had specific ideas, all of us Moms and grandmas were saying "My dream is for all my kids to get out of the house" Mine was to be an expert at something and get an MBA and start a business in it...some day...some idea industry, etc. I feel like I'm waiting for my middle part of my story to begin. The part where an oppurtunity or talent or something pops up and challenges me and focuses my life.

I also remember asking my Mother in Law what she did after her first 2 children so she wasn't bored at home. She laughed and said she was Relief Society president and cooked all the meals and visit taught half a dozen sisters. I feel like that's what's missing right now for me- I need to find ways to magnify all the tasks I've already been given, and hopefully find my life (and skills and interests) in the midst of losing it to serve others.

I feel like I now have hope for the future because I have faith in myself, that I'm capable of more, and moreover, praying the Lord will help in my capability if I am available and not distracted. I hope that doesn't sound preachy. I've been telling it myself lately, that I have to be efficent and smart with my time, and use my flex time to enrich myself or others, not just to entertain myself. Good luck, I know how hard it is to be in a funk.

JamiLeigh said...
Mickelle - I think this talk applies pretty much perfectly to what you are talking about here. I love you, friend.

liesel said...

I read this (hopped over from Josh's blog). And wasn't going to comment, because I am a total stranger to you, and why would my experiences matter.. But I couldn't get it out of my head, so I came back and I hope maybe my comment can help. Because I completely understand. I am a perfectionist and I can easily get too caught up in my personal projects/hobbies/talents that if I am not careful can lead to me resenting my kids by them taking away from my creating. But also on the flip side, if I ignore the pieces of myself that are good and truly a part of me, then I end up resenting them because I feel like I have lost part of myself, and I feel empty and depressed. I think balance is hard, but achievable. And from what I know from talking to older and wiser moms, life DOESN'T someday magically slow down when our kids get older so we suddenly have an excess of it. You have to make time for yourself, and learn to balance it, even though it is hard. This actually reminds me of a talk.. (looks it up) By Elder Ballard (called Daughters of God from april 2008 G.C.) "Third, even as you try to cut out the extra commitments, sisters, find some time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests. Pick one or two things that you would like to learn or do that will enrich your life, and make time for them. Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children." (this whole talk is great.. you should read it, it is awesome)

So, I compromise. I use my talents and I set aside tuesday and thursday nights after the kids go to bed for illustrating my book. It is taking a long time, but I am making it happen right now. I also realize that my way is not the only right way. I just think we (as women and mothers) shouldn't put ourselves and our pursuits completely on hold for others. We are denying our OWN worth that way. Yes there needs to be balance, and everyone needs to work that out on their own, between them and God. But you have to replenish your own personal growth. Showing your kids that they can accomplish their dreams by personal example is more powerful than just teaching it to them with words. Of course it has to be tempered with serving your family. But balance can be achieved. (Just as long as you don't equate balance with perfection.. I suck at housework too..)

I hope this doesn't come off too pretentious and preachy.. or that I have it all figured out (because I don't). And maybe I'm projecting a little (because my husband has given up music, because he thinks it will consume him if he does it, and if he can't have it all, then a little won't suffice, but I think if you stifle parts of your soul (he is insanely gifted musically) your capacity for a fulfilled life is in jeopardy.) But all long winded-ness aside, it is a hard dilemma, and I hope you can find peace with it.

Anonymous said...

The cleaning & scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
For children grow up
as Ive learned to my sorrow

So quiet down cobwebs...
Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby
And babies don't keep.

- grey

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your feelings, which I believe are shared by many. I too am a stranger who came here from Josh's blog. Reading your thoughts made me think of a great talk given by Elder Kofford some years ago:

Elaine said...

Hi Mickelle! You don't know me, but Josh Weed linked to you on his last post. PLUS my good friend Holly Decker knows you I think. Anyway, I stumbled on your blog and this post today and HAD to comment because it really struck a cord for me. We sound a lot alike and I often struggle with the same thing you are talking about. Everything you said seemed to express thoughts I have daily. I admire you for being able to say what you feel and do it honestly and eloquently. Thanks for posting this!