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.

Concerning the Paula Deen Scandal….

On my personal Facebook page (the one under my name, not the blog), I have voiced support for Paula Deen amidst the scandal she is facing in the media for admitting to using racial slurs almost thirty years ago (toward a man who held her at gunpoint while he robbed the bank where she worked), as well as her admittance to making mistakes regarding inappropriate jokes in the workplace. This all stems from a deposition from a lawsuit a former employee filed against her, accusing her and others of inappropriate conduct and prejudice in the workplace. There is also mention in the deposition of the consideration of using African American men in a wedding a couple decades ago, wanting to have these same men dressed as servants because she said she admired the professionalism and decorum that they showed in that position in the past (she admits in her deposition that she realized this would not be acceptable, nor would it be construed the way she intended).

On my page, I have shown support for her, and have lost Facebook friends as a result. Anyone who knows me well knows that I adore Paula Deen. I have oodles of cookbooks (one that is autographed, no less), and her autobiography, and some of her products. I would croon right along with her when she sampled a recipe she would make on her cooking shows.  I vehemently spoke in her defense when her cooking was criticized for its frequent use of butter and other fattening ingredients, and still defended her when she admitted that she now has Type II diabetes.

And I will defend her now, even in this scandal. And here is why:

All of us are guilty of prejudice. You can stomp your feet and adamantly deny it, but that’s a lie. We are all guilty. When we tell jokes about others, when we share graphics on social media sites that poke fun of celebrities or other subcultures, when we laugh at shows like South Park, when we fear someone for being different than we are, when we silently label someone due to a stereotype we possess toward them–that’s being prejudiced, plain and simple. Paula Deen was under oath, and she admitted to things that we are all guilty of doing ourselves, in some form or another. That does not make those actions right, necessarily. It’s not right of her, and it’s not right of us, and I think we all need to do some soul searching to see where we can change for the better. But it’s wrong to scapegoat someone for honesty and for actions committed in the past. She never pulled a Don Imus moment–using a racially charged slur over national airwaves, and live, no less. She committed these actions in the past, in private, and perhaps made some uncomfortable at work telling raunchy jokes (let’s be honest–I’ll raise a hand in guilt there myself). And most of the people complaining have never so much as read a page of this deposition (I have read it), and are buying what the media is selling to them, even though journalists are cutting and pasting to their hearts’ content to create their own interpretations and spin on the events…even if they are wrong, or are misquoted.

I admit, I don’t use the word in question that she admitted to using. But why is it okay for some to use it, and not others? When did it become okay to trash one group, but not another? I don’t like being called a cracker, or a redneck, or a hillbilly, or a dumb blonde, or a bitch, or a cunt, or any other name. I apologize for the language, but let’s get real here. Let’s use this hoopla for something positive and change our ways.  Let Paula Deen redeem herself. Let me redeem myself. Allow yourself to change and be forgiven. We’re ALL guilty.

You wanna know why I love Paula Deen the most?

As a result of the aforementioned robbery, Paula Deen developed crippling agoraphobia. She was essentially imprisoned in her own home as a result of her fear. And yet, through that, she found ways to push her boundaries and to make something of herself, and slowly but surely, she created a business, became independent and secure, and developed an empire. A woman with mental illness who conquered it and followed her dreams–it’s amazing. It’s something to be praised. I personally have suffered from depression so badly that I wouldn’t get out of bed. The thought of functioning was too painful, too frightening, too much for me. The idea that “if she can do it, I can do it” has stayed with me ever since I heard her story. Until I hear a reason otherwise, I’ll allow her the opportunity to grow and start fresh.

I know I often need it.

I know you do, too.

The deposition: http://www.scribd.com/doc/148813272/Transcript-of-the-Testimony-of-Paula-Deen-Date-May-17-2013