Disappearing Act

I was rereading my most recent post, from almost six months ago, and if I had only known then how my life would change, on the very next day…..

The day after that post, I found out that was (very unexpectedly) pregnant with my third child, a “surprise.” I was terrified.

In addition to that, on that very same day, other more personal changes occurred, and everything I had planned in my life crumbled in my hands. My Plan A dissolved. We weren’t even on Plan B, or Plan C. We found ourselves on Plan Z.

Suddenly, I had to shift goals and priorities. I had to work harder to rebuild and strengthen what my husband and I readily admit was a struggling marriage. I lost individuals in my life that I loved dearly. My future, my dreams of happiness, of returning to graduate school…everything changed. Nothing was what it used to be, and it only took 24 hours.

But, you know what? Even the darkest, most terrifying storms in our life can lead to renewed ground to stand upon.

For a while, I lost myself in the tempest of that storm. I forgot who I was, where I belonged, that I mattered. I felt ashamed of past decisions, loathed myself, felt myself overcome with bitterness, hurt, and anger. I was overwhelmed. I simply didn’t feel good enough.

But, this is where I am now, after the storm….

My husband and I are making changes and accomplishing goals that we never thought we could tackle together, at least not easily. It’s a long road, but we’re taking that road step by step, solid.

I’ve learned to let go of those who treat me poorly, who don’t have my best interests at heart, who don’t love me, who hurt and use me.

I’ve embraced the third chance I’ve been given to be a mother, and I’m anxiously awaiting the birth of another wonderful daughter, and all of the cuddles, the bonding, the sweetness that a new baby will bring into our lives (I’m still not a fan of the idea of sleep deprivation, but we’ll manage).

I’ve refocused on new priorities, and have centered my life around my family and home, and less on selfish pursuits.

I am (slowly) learning to forgive myself.

I’m bonding with my children in ways I never expected as they grow and learn every day. My four year old tells me every day, “You are my friend,” and I feel so blessed, so humbled, so inadequate.

I very nearly lost myself to the disappearing act of guilt, depression, and pain, and yet, here I am, having weathered the storms in my life, still on the path, finding my way, one day at a time….

Here’s hoping I stay on said path, and that I can fully find myself again.

 

Back on the Path

It’s been so long since I’ve posted here.

I have a problem with goals and dreams. See, I throw myself into them, as a rule, almost to a fault. When I started this blog, and I saw (slight) success when it comes to interest and readership, suddenly I wanted to do ALLTHETHINGS. Everything from scratch, mending, making do, doing with less, all natural, all local. I wanted to turn the blog into a networked business–advertisements, product reviews, classes in the community, affiliate links, obsessing over Facebook likes and shares. ALL. THE. THINGS.

And you know what? I lost the joy for it. I became exhausted. I can’t do it all. I lost my therapeutic outlet, my desire to share my story, stumbles and all. This blog is supposed to be about my path to self-reliance and a more natural, simple life. Turning it into my obsession wasn’t me, and it wasn’t what it was supposed to be about.

In addition, there were struggles and adjustments in our personal lives as a family. My husband was laid off for six months. We both started new jobs. I switched from a part time job to a full time job which was a career change for me. I’m contemplating going back to school. I’m potty training a reluctant three year old. I’ve been reminded that marriage and parenting are really, really difficult jobs, and it’s not always easy navigating the challenges. I simply couldn’t do it all.

Some things I haven’t been as diligent in maintaining. Our finances still need work. I don’t have time to cook at home as often as I would like, and when I am home, I’m too tired to want to do it all from scratch. My house is an unorganized mess and is chaos. I’ve lost almost forty pounds due to a number of factors, but still find myself lacking a true workout regimen. Natural medicine and remedies have frequently given way to conventional treatments, so I’m trying to learn a balance there.

In other ways, I’m meeting goals and making changes. We still support as many small businesses as we can. We buy much of our meat and produce from local farms. I do exercise, even if it isn’t as consistent as it ought to be. We’re renewing our CSA this season. I feel like I am a more patient parent who yells less and tries to understand my little ones more and their motives and feelings. I still use natural skin care products when possible, still try to clean with healthier, less toxic alternatives when able. It’s a balance. I’d rather be consistent with a few things than fail at trying to do it all.

And there are the victories. I have been under the weather for a week or so, and we still managed to go strawberry picking as a family for 45 minutes, and ten pounds of berries later….. These are the moments that matter. It’s the little things and moments that add up to a true lifestyle change, and not obsession and extremism.

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A Month of Gratitude, #14-16

Today, I am grateful for many things.

14) I am grateful for unexpected kindness. Our local toy store is closing after 11 years of business. I seriously love small, hometown, toy stores. They always sell the most classic, durable toys, and often, a lot of them are also eco-friendly and responsibly manufactured, too–much better than you find at Target and Walmart. The owner was offering and giving small freebies or additional discounts to us, just “because I can,” as she put it. I hope to some day be self-sufficient and out of debt so I can enjoy the same abilities when I am older. It made my day.

15) I am grateful for my husband. I know that I said I would avoid the traditional gratitude posts, but to be honest, with my moods as wild as they have been lately, and for his ability to take poopy diapers and temper tantrums from the kids in stride, he deserves total recognition and praise. He puts up with a lot out of us.

16) I am thankful for the random warm days that Eastern autumns and winters provide for us once in a while. Being able to go out and enjoy a day with one of my closest friends was much appreciated, and even more so with there being a slightly warm lilt to the air.

Wanderlust and the Dark

Forgive me ahead of time, as this is going to be a very personal one tonight….

I have always had very dark, melancholic periods off and on since I was a teenager. Then, I wrote it off as adolescent hormones, and that it was something that everyone went through at that stage of life.

Once I was in college, I started realizing that it wasn’t merely something of my early youth, but that this might be something akin to my inherent personality, part of my inner workings, so to speak. I would find myself walking through campus on gray, Autumn days with no direction, no reason, and a mind that was alternately racing and completely dark all at the same time.

I started realizing, as I changed majors in college, that, in some ways, it was a bit of an artistic personality showing. Although I wasn’t an exceptionally good writer, I found that the best work I did often came from these gray periods, these weeks or months of loneliness and despair. I would nurse them away curled in up in a chair in our college library’s stunning atrium absorbed in a book and writing frantic notes in the margins, dog-eared pages marking my way. I would watch films and start and stop them in certain places just to analyze them, to see if there was something more than met the eye. And I could work all of these thoughts out through essays and lectures through the rigors of academia.

I also longed to travel. Due to several factors, I was not a well traveled child. I went to Florida once when I was five, and beyond that, we stayed to “border states,” and I even attended college in my hometown. I consoled myself that, once I was an adult and had an adult’s salary, I would travel, see my great nation and see the world.

I kept a lot of my dark spells hidden. At the same time that I was holed up in Bohemian coffeeshops, book and honeyed milk in hands, I was also attending church regularly, as I was raised Mormon. I was taught to believe that motherhood was a calling from God and was the highest achievement a woman would (and should) possess, that and marriage to another fellow Mormon. So, while my soul was troubled, I also quietly held it in and played the part, and also had myself horribly convinced that marriage and motherhood was something that should be obtained right away. You can see why my heart and mind were so troubled and, ultimately, quite confused, as my church friends were all getting married and having children, and here I was producing essays and frantic notes in used paperbacks.

I did marry, and obviously, I have had children. But the bleak periods still remain. You’re taught in church that you should love and revel and relish every moment of motherhood, and while I love my children, no one really informed me, or can anyone really inform you, honestly, that, in addition to losing the ability to read or watch movies, you lose the ability to even properly obtain or privately have the most basic human needs–there’s a lack of sleep, often, I put off meals, going to the bathroom in peace rarely happens. So, when you combine the loss of your coping mechanisms, plus adding in the inability to achieve the most rudimentary needs in life, you can see that those dark times can turn positively black. Sometimes, even though you love your children, you find yourself wishing you could just simply run, be alone, wanting to go back to the days of libraries and coffeeshops. And then comes the regret and the guilt associated with longing for that instead of simply enjoying every minute of motherhood. Shame. Self loathing.

There’s little travel. I’m lucky to pull out even the most trite and formulaic writings for blogs and other things, let alone anything analytic. By the time I am able to read, I am either too exhausted, or I am almost feverishly desperate, read for hours in the dark of night, and then start the day with screaming children and chores to do with maybe two or three hours of sleep.

By nature, I don’t have a homesteader’s heart, even though I ultimately have a blog centered around that lifestyle and self sufficiency. I have accepted the fact that I tend to have more of an artist’s spirit (without the artist’s talent). But, in realizing and accepting that my needs are more basic, that I need to have the release that comes from reading and analyzing and writing and creating, it has helped me to start shedding the things that I thought I needed for years in an attempt to be the perfect Mormon wife and mother, has taught me to treat materialism and consumerism and the need to have things with disdain. And when you start tossing away the facade of things, you are left craving a simpler life, one with meaning, the creation that comes from cooking from scratch and building a new life–which is where the drive for self sufficiency comes into play for me, I think.

I am in one of my dark periods right now. I find myself in tears or enraged at the drop of a hat. I long for an outlet, or the lost days of my academic career. I am antsy. I want to travel, though there are few resources to do so. I am both desperate for independence and holding to my family for dear life.

Sometimes, whether it was through my upbringing, or whether it is due to my natural maternal instincts (which do exist…I love my children dearly), I find myself feeling guilty for wanting anything for myself. When I have time on my own, I either feel I must clean or do something for the family, or I sleep because I am exhausted both physically and mentally. And in discussions with my husband, I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t, and shouldn’t, be all or nothing. I accept the fact that I am prone to depression and times where I need a means of emotional release and creativity. And I am beginning to wonder if, instead of being a bad mother for wanting them, I would be a better mother for having them. I want my children to learn that it is okay to create, to play, to mess around and to mess up, to roam, to be who they are, and not what society, religion, other people want them to be. I want them to see me doing all of these things, to know that their mother wasn’t afraid to try something new, to explore, to be something different.

My husband and I are wanting to (slowly) make travel a priority. I have developed a serious case of wanderlust. I want to learn to paint, to become a better photographer, to write more, to learn to analyze and pick apart literature and film again. I even want to learn to act, and I have never been able to keep a straight face worth anything. But, I want to try, and I want the children to know it is okay to try.

I am not sure why I am sharing this, really. It has nothing really to do with self sufficiency or sustainable living. But, if it helps another parent to feel less alone, then it is well worth the words.

A Fraud

My dream/goal with this blog is to someday build it up to be a resource for others who want to become more frugal and self reliant in their lives and families. I envision a database where readers can come to find ways to save money, find bargains, research home remedies, discover new recipes–to get inspired. Someday, I might even have an online store that sells some of my favorite products to help accomplish some of the goals that my blog promotes.

But, above all else, my dream with my blog is to become a place for others to come to know that they are not alone in their struggles with marriage, parenting, finances, accomplishing goals, and so forth. Blogs have helped me in my darkest hours by becoming a place to go when I feel I have nowhere else, no one else who understands, and I have been eternally grateful for the words of others.

And yet, sometimes, I feel like a fraud, a fake, a phony.

The thoughts that run through my head….

Who am I to discuss successful tips for parenting? I scream at my children ALL. THE. TIME. I have even spanked my oldest. I use bribery. I sometimes wonder what I have gotten myself into. Our house is so not as babyproof as it ought to be. My five year old picked up a swear word. I suffered from postpartum depression with my oldest. I failed at breastfeeding and fed my children soy formula. They eat too much junk food.

Who am I to sing the praises of marriage, and how could I ever be someone who could ever offer advice? My husband and I have gone to counseling. We have our own struggles. We argue, and we don’t always see eye to eye. We’ve had moments where we wondered where we ought to go from here.

Who am I to pretend we’re eating better? Sure, maybe we have a CSA and are eating more produce, but I could never get rid of my comfort foods. My son only wants to eat chicken McNuggets and fries. And we eat out way too often.

Speaking of eating out way too often, why do I pretend I am frugal? I am swimming, heck, drowning in debt. I sometimes wonder if I might have a slight shopping addiction. I try to budget and fail. I have to borrow money from my in laws at every turn, or so it seems. My husband suggests I teach classes on stockpiling and bargain hunting, but how could I do that knowing someone might find out we’re massively in debt? That would make me a fraud, and I shouldn’t do it. Not to mention, I don’t know how to can anything without help, and I can’t make a successful loaf of bread on my own. We’re too reliant on Walmart and boxed mixes to ever pretend we’re self reliant.

I’m not eco-friendly. We don’t even recycle. Who am I kidding? We cloth diaper 50% of the time, and still use disposables at night and at travel. We waste so much and produce so much trash. Why do I even admit that I try?

These are often the thoughts that run through my head on sleepless nights.

How do I share these worthwhile concepts–self reliance, frugality, sustainability, more conscientious parenting, advice for marriages and families–where I feel like such a failure, a fraud, sometimes?

I think that part of this is the realization that these things take time, even when I’m not willing or able to admit it. I will never, ever tell you I am perfect. I want this blog to be the chronicle of a journey, and with every journey, there are moments where we get lost, or stumble along the way. I stumble and fall–a lot. But, if nothing else, I am trying, and it is my hope that you read this and feel that you’re not alone in pursuing your own goals and hopes in your life and in your moments of imperfection.