These last two months have been a very big learning experience for me. I thought I knew I what I was doing when Ryan was gone. I've never enjoyed him being gone. For one thing, I've never liked being alone - ever. Ask Emily. When we were in college and I'd get home from work and no one was home, I'd call her up and within seconds she'd guess, "You're home alone, aren't you?" But beyond that uncomfortable aloneness, I always seemed to be able to rise to the occasion. I wasn't the type who needed a lot of outside help. I appreciated it and accepted it, but I didn't always feel the need to ask for it.
This time, however, it has not been the same. I have felt very guilty inside, because I have felt weak. Anytime I started feeling sorry for myself, I would think of a friend in my ward who has been through a lot lately, from pre-existing health challenges, to a bad C-section, a car accident, a viral/bacterial infection from swimming with the dolphins in Mexico, to another car accident involving an 18-wheeler. And on top of that, she has three very small children. Those are real challenges I would tell myself, and then I'd very quickly snap out of my pity party. What is homeschooling, college classes, and normal mothering alone to all that? A blessing!
But I started to analyze why I was frequently falling into a slump. Why did I need to "snap out of it" so often? Why was I feeling so guilty for admitting that even though I wasn't dealing with physical challenges, that what I was dealing with was still hard? And the thought came to me that when Ryan was deployed, it made sense for life to be hard. I'd accepted at the beginning that it was going to be hard and I prayed accordingly. I remember when friends would say how hard they thought it was for their husbands just to be gone a few weeks on business, I was always really generous and I never looked down on them. Because instinctively then, I knew it was hard no matter what the reason their husband was gone. But I've been very hard on myself this time around. I haven't wanted to admit that it was hard because it doesn't make as much sense for it to be hard when I can call Ryan anytime I want to, and I still have friends whose husbands really are in harm's way. Really are fighting a war on the front lines. And they can't call them and hear their voices so readily on the other line.
Last week it all came to a head. I was going on several nights in a row of crying myself to sleep. I didn't know who I could talk to about it being hard without it seeming like I was being ungrateful. I could count my blessings all day long and still feel a heaviness in my heart at the end of the day. Translating my gratitude into happiness was getting difficult. And I had started to feel claustrophobic. One of the good things about deployments, is you generally have an idea of when it's going to end. I realized we are still up in the air. Because about a month ago the Air Force recruiter called saying there was a new job open with 15 positions and put Ryan on the list for that job. A week or so later we were told he had the #1 slot in the central recruiting command. But we haven't heard anything since. I'm generally a flexible person. I don't put much into plans and have been known to cancel for any number of reasons and it doesn't often hurt my feelings if others cancel on me. But when it comes to the big stuff, I like to know where I am going. And for the last month, we got our hopes up really high that our Plan A was back in play.
But then time went on without any word and our excitement and overall enthusiasm started to wane as day after day we still heard nothing. I started to fall deeper and deeper into a depression and I knew I needed to ask for help. I called my home teachers and they responded very quickly to my request for a blessing. I was blessed with peace, calm, and comfort and counseled to focus on the prize, on the eternal goals, the mansions in heaven and to focus on the big picture. I was blessed to be a good example to my family and promised that I would start receiving answers to my prayers and questions that I had been seeking. I was assured of Heavenly Father's love for me and His awareness of me.
After the blessing, Matt gave a good analogy, about a child doing a dot-to-dot, and as a parent, you can see what the picture is going to turn out to be, but as the child doing the dot-to-dot, all you can see are the dots. And how as a parent, Heavenly Father knows what our picture is going to be, and if we who are doing the dot-to-dot could just step back for a moment, we might see some of the picture, too.
I really have incredible home teachers. And visiting teachers! I have felt so reassured that I am in the right place at the right time. About a week before Easter, I was asked to play a musical number in Sacrament Meeting. Having received counsel to step back from the immediacy and uncertainty of where I was in my life now and look at the bigger picture, I felt sure I was given a blessing to consider an eternal perspective. I'd been playing with "That Easter Morn" and "He is Risen" for the week before my blessing, but it came together with the addition of "If You Could Hie to Kolob". I'd been thinking about what it would be like to be where God is. To seek to be near Him. To want His arms surrounding me in a fatherly hug. And then to consider the sacrifice of His only begotten son. To the pain the Savior felt in Gethsemane and again on the cross, to His triumph over death. Which victory allows us all to return to Heavenly Father and to be where He is. Working on the arrangement of the hymns and feeling the spirit of those hymns helped heal the pain I was feeling.
This week has been so much better! Things have still "gone wrong", but I'm recovering more quickly and regaining my sense of humor. I've been blessed with particular inspiration for things I have been asking and thinking about. I've always been an advocate of the power of choice and our agency being the one thing Heavenly Father will not take from us. So how powerful must that be? So I had the thought after Leah came out of the bathroom dripping wet when she was only supposed to be brushing her teeth, that I could laugh or I could scold her. And then I thought, what if I could make the choice ahead of time to laugh? Like we are always taught to decide ahead of time that you won't do this, or you won't do that so when the situation presents itself, you don't have to decide. The decision was already made. So I thought, if I could just choose to laugh more, at the truly insignificant things, how much easier would motherhood be? How much more fun would it be? And don't my girls deserve to have a mom with a sense of humor?
So that's my goal, because I know Heavenly Father wants me to be happy, even now when I have a full plate of obligations and responsibilities and don't have Ryan here to lean on directly. I have a wonderful Relief Society president who has been coming every Thursday to let me run a couple errands or take some personal time. I have wonderful friends and home and visiting teachers who have offered and taken my children for me. I have lots of opportunities to see friends throughout the week with Zumba and play group. And I have three beautiful daughters who are, as Brandon said the other night, "scary good." They are not difficult children. They listen very well for their ages. They are happy, and they are considerate of their mom. And I just have needed some help getting the right perspective and getting my act together. My life is truly blessed. I can't see where we are going right now. There is no established end date for this particular challenge. But I know there will be one. And in the meantime I have fabulous friends and daughters who I will make the most of my time with, and a loving Heavenly Father who shows His hand and His love by the angels He sends to me.