A Princess Worth Mentioning Again: Rosamond

Another excerpt from The Lost Princess by George MacDonald. For me, where I am now, anxiety = group of some dozen wolves and hyenas. As Robert Frost tells us, “The best way out is always through.”

*****

Then said the wise woman:—

“Below there is the forest which surrounds my house. I am going home. If you pledge to come there to me, I will help you, in a way I could not do now, to be good and lovely. I will wait you there all day, but if you start at once, you may be there long before noon. I shall have your breakfast waiting for you. One thing more: the beasts have not yet all gone home to their holes; but I give you my word, not one will touch you so long as you keep coming nearer to my house.”

She ceased. Rosamond sat waiting to hear something more; but nothing came. She looked up; she was alone.

Alone once more! Always being left alone, because she would not yield to what was right! Oh, how safe she had felt under the wise woman’s cloak! She had indeed been good to her, and she had in return behaved like one of the hyenas of the awful wood! What a wonderful house it was she lived in! And again all her own story came up into her brain from her repentant heart.

“Why didn’t she take me with her?” she said. “I would have gone gladly.” And she wept. But her own conscience told her that, in the very middle of her shame and desire to be good, she had returned no answer to the words of the wise woman; she had sat like a tree-stump, and done nothing. She tried to say there was nothing to be done; but she knew at once that she could have told the wise woman she had been very wicked, and asked her to take her with her. Now there was nothing to be done.

“Nothing to be done!” said her conscience. “Cannot you rise, and walk down the hill, and through the wood?”

“But the wild beasts!”

“There it is! You don’t believe the wise woman yet! Did she not tell you the beasts would not touch you?”

“But they are so horrid!”

“Yes, they are; but it would be far better to be eaten up alive by them than live on—such a worthless creature as you are. Why, you’re not fit to be thought about by any but bad ugly creatures.”

This was how herself talked to her.

All at once she jumped to her feet, and ran at full speed down the hill and into the wood. She heard howlings and yellings on all sides of her, but she ran straight on, as near as she could judge. Her spirits rose as she ran. Suddenly she saw before her, in the dusk of the thick wood, a group of some dozen wolves and hyenas, standing all together right in her way, with their green eyes fixed upon her staring. She faltered one step, then bethought her of what the wise woman had promised, and keeping straight on, dashed right into the middle of them. They fled howling, as if she had struck them with fire. She was no more afraid after that, and ere the sun was up she was out of the wood and upon the heath, which no bad thing could step upon and live. With the first peep of the sun above the horizon, she saw the little cottage before her, and ran as fast as she could run towards it, When she came near it, she saw that the door was open, and ran straight into the outstretched arms of the wise woman.

The wise woman kissed her and stroked her hair, set her down by the fire, and gave her a bowl of bread and milk.

When she had eaten it she drew her before her where she sat, and spoke to her thus:—

“Rosamond, if you would be a blessed creature instead of a mere wretch, you must submit to be tried.”

“Is that something terrible?” asked the princess, turning white.

“No, my child; but it is something very difficult to come well out of. Nobody who has not been tried knows how difficult it is; but whoever has come well out of it, and those who do not overcome never do come out of it, always looks back with horror, not on what she has come through, but on the very idea of the possibility of having failed, and being still the same miserable creature as before.”

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Drinking Water

I’m kind of a mess right now. Meaning, talking about my own stuff far too much instead of listening to people I find interesting because my brain is like a car engine revved up to 8,000 rpms all the time kind of mess. Meaning up all night, could easily go skipping down any of a number of destructive paths kind of mess. I’m not saying that to garner sympathy (I have enough of that because I have lots of kind and compassionate people around me), and I certainly don’t have the market cornered on Going Through Stuff. I know a lot of people who have a lot going on. 2014 has been sort of a glass 3/4 empty kind of year so far.

The thing about being a parent is that it doesn’t stop just because I am a mess. People still poop in their diapers, and need to be fed, clothed, washed, and cleaned up after/told to clean up after themselves. And there are a lot of other areas of life in which this holds true to varying degrees. Even the most understanding of workplaces will require one to eventually, you know, be able to function and do work. Sick loved ones are still sick, even if I can’t handle it. And sometimes, the astounding pressure to just GET IT TOGETHER ALREADY is enough to get me through an ER visit. But sometimes it’s not. So what then?

My new spiritual practice is drinking water. As a way to remind myself to stop and allow myself to be replenished in the most basic way I can think of. Because if I am not intentional, I can go days without actually drinking a glass of plain water. It’s like being a Christian without praying to God for peace in times of sorrow. Sure, I can do it; probably even for quite a long time, but why would I want to? What does it prove? It’s not as though God doesn’t know I’m a mess if I don’t pray about it. I am privileged to live in a place where water is readily available whenever I want it, so why should I let myself wither like the houseplants I keep forgetting to water?

Someone’s chemo isn’t working? Stop and drink a glass of water.

Kids are fighting over the same toy AGAIN? Stop and drink a glass of water.

A friend’s baby has to have open heart surgery? Water.

We’re doing a test that will “rule out” Crohn’s disease for the fifth time this year? *sigh* water.

Now, drinking water doesn’t directly help any of these situations the least little bit. Any more than remembering to water my houseplants would keep them from burning in a fire or being smashed to pieces if thrown on the floor. But when the hypothetical fire or smashing feels like it’s hanging over my head (especially if it seems to follow me for any length of time), it’s so easy to overlook the important fundamental ways that I can keep myself from withering away in the meanwhile.

Sometimes I don’t feel any different after I drink a big glass of water. But sometimes I do.

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The Things I Can

Got some really great advice from an ER nurse this weekend. This is heavily paraphrased, as I was pretty overwhelmed and don’t remember exactly what she said, but she really helped me a lot.

Nurse: Don’t try to do everything at once. Do one thing at a time.

Me: But sometimes there are too many things. Like right now. My husband is on this side of the ER and my friend is bringing my daughter to the kids’ side. I can’t be in charge of both of those things! Who do I go with? I want to be both places.

Nurse: That’s true. A lot of times it does seem like everything comes at you at once. When that happens you just have do something about the thing you can do something about.

Me: I guess you have a lot of experience with having to prioritize stuff like that, in a high stress environment like this.

Nurse: Yes. I’ve never been through AA or anything, but a lot of times I just say the Serenity prayer anyway, because it’s really helpful when you’re overwhelmed.

Me: Yes! That’s really concrete and helps me a lot. I can’t make my husband ok, and right now he’s drugged and sleeping anyway. So I should go get ready to do the best I can for when my bleeding kiddo gets here.

I would also like to add that I mentioned during that conversation that it must be a tricky part of her job to deal with people who are often at their worst and that she was being really kind and clear and helpful when I was certainly not at my best. 

ER nurses and staff in particular and medical professionals in general, I salute you and thank you for that graciousness.

 

serenity prayer

**I found a lot of these graphics online…and mostly they seemed to favor the serenity, wisdom, and courage. Those are good things, but I’m more about verbs than nouns, solution-wise. A personality thing, I suppose.

 

Just for my own running reference:

Some things I can’t control

~whether or not my husband experiences pain

~whether or not my kids experience pain or sickness

~whether my family and friends (or their kids) experience pain or sickness or even death (oh, it hurts my heart to write that)

~whether other people will assume the best or the worst of my intentions and actions

~what other people learn about who God is because of their suffering

 

Some things I can control

~Learning as much as I can to help my family to live well and pain free

~asking for help when I need it, and accepting help when it’s offered

~cutting myself a lot of slack when I am not at my best

~cutting other people a lot of slack when they are not at their best

~assuming the best of other people’s intentions and actions

~letting other people know when I am not at my best; not so they can cut me slack necessarily (though that is nice sometimes), but so they don’t think that whatever social or relational sins I commit are about them

~what I choose to think about God amid (and because of; or at least taking into account) my own struggles and doubts, and those of the people around me

~Doing the dishes (though if 3/4 of my family is injured or in the ER over the weekend I’m gonna go ahead and give myself at least until Tuesday before I even think about it!)

Two days, both alike in happenstance…

There’s a lot of talk around here these days about positive and negative self-talk. Apparently, what we tell ourselves has an effect on how we feel about our circumstances, our people, and our lives in general. Novel, huh?

Neither of the following depictions are exactly what happened; rather it was something sort of in between. Because no one is just one thing; though I’d like to think I was closer to the positive end most of the day, I am still learning. So I present, for your consideration (and possibly amusement; it’s ok), my day yesterday. Twice.

~~~~~

Woke up, dissheveled, and rushed around to get everyone ready and get out the door. Today we needed to get the family car, because E had her first Homeschool Book Club and it’s too far away to walk to so we decided to drive there. We got J to work, later than I had hoped in my unrealistic fantasies which do not include things like stopping to change diapers and coffee taking 3 minutes to steep in the french press.

Got J to work, then headed to the mall to look for athletic shoes for the girl, because strappy sandals are not good for bike riding, and after several trips to the second hand store we have given up finding them there. Walked around, bored, for half an hour, until 9 a.m., then went to the store we were trying to go to only to find out that it opens at 10. GAH.

Tried to figure out something to do for an hour and a half, then remembered the old golf course across the street from the mall is a park now. No playground equipment or anything though. Hope it doesn’t suck. My car starts making a weird noise that seems associated with the brakes. Ugh. Maybe if I ignore it it’ll go away. But….

Made it to book club a little early (because I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is no ‘on time’ for me; I’m 20 minutes early, or half an hour late). Had a little snack and read some while waiting for the other families to get there. What will it be like? What if everyone thinks I’m crazy and my kids are ridiculous!? More to the point, what if that’s true??

Book club went along just fine.

We played for a while at the library, my kids dawdling and being angry about leaving the library, just like they didn’t want to leave the park, or the mall, or the car, or our house. I got frustrated and said, “we LEAVE PLACES, ok? It’s a thing. If we never left anywhere, we’d never go anywhere. GET USED TO IT.”

We tried out a new lunch place. It was good that they have nondairy stuff we can eat, but my kids didn’t want to sit nicely because WATERFALL and I spilled my drink all over myself trying to pour it into one of my kids’ waterbottles. Because of course I did. “I deserved that.” I said to the waiter who brought me a napkin. I think he said something back, but I was too distracted finding a crayon under the table.

Lunch was good, but I ordered too much. I’m so wasteful like that, even if we did take it with us and ate it later as a car snack. Why aren’t I better at estimating portions served by restaurants I’ve never been to?

We went to a store nearby to look for shoes, now that it was open. It took forever to walk there because kids have to stop and look at every worm on the sidewalk while I try to get them to JUST COME ON already. We have places to be.

After some argument, we finally agreed on some ‘sparkletastic’ purple and white athletic shoes that light up when E stomps her feet. As if she needed another reason to stomp her feet all the time. They are purple, because I vetoed the pinkalicious ones on the grounds that they were ten dollars more. I felt the imaginary eyes of progressives around me standing in judgment of the fact that I didn’t convince her to get the Captain America light up shoes instead, but it just didn’t seem worth the fight. And she did seem pretty excited…

We picked up J and dropped him off at an appointment. Not sure what we were going to do about dinner, because we might need to visit a dear friend in the hospital. TOO MANY PEOPLE I LOVE IN TOO MANY HOSPITALS. I left my wallet in the cart at Costco. I realized it five minutes after driving away with my children and my groceries. I immediately called the store, drove us all back there, looked all around, left my information at the front desk, and called to cancel my debit card right then (because there is a Best Buy next door to the Costco). It was embarrassing and tiring and irritating. And it was 6 p.m. Luckily, our friend was home from the hospital, and another friend offered us dinner. So that was nice. Then I got my wallet back. So I guess the day wasn’t that bad.
~~~~~

Woke up, dissheveled, and rushed around to get everyone ready and get out the door. Today we needed to get the car, because E had her first Homeschool Book Club so we were taking the opportunity to run other errands, too. We got J to work, later than I had hoped in my unrealistic fantasies which do not include things like stopping to change diapers and coffee taking 3 minutes to steep in the french press. maybe later than before we had kids, but all things considered in a fairly timely manner. Good thing he has flex hours, and no early morning meetings.

Got J to work, then headed to the mall to look for athletic shoes for the girl, because while strappy sandals are amazing for cuteness with dresses and things, they are not quite as practical for things like running fast, climbing trees, or bike riding. Walked around, bored, fascinated by turned off mall fountains, the big clock in the center of the mall (we practiced telling time), a decoration on the wall, and various indoor plants we encountered. At 9, we realized the store didn’t open for another hour. GAH. Rather than hang around for that long (we’d seen lots of interest at the mall already), we left and had a snack in the car.

Tried to figure out something to do for an hour and a half, then remembered the old golf course across the street from the mall is a park now. No playground equipment or anything though. Hope it doesn’t suck. There was some really interesting stuff there, like signs with information about Coyotes, and what felt oddly like a suburban archaeological dig site. This is where they used to drive the golf carts! That is where you had to pay to be a member or you couldn’t come and pay to eat at the restaurant! Oooh, this would have been the hole to get the golf ball in, and that’s a SAND TRAP. OMG. My car starts making a weird noise that seems associated with the brakes. Ugh. Maybe if I ignore it it’ll go away. But…. Yay! It did.

Made it to book club a little early (because I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is no ‘on time’ for me; I’m 20 minutes early, or half an hour late. I am who I am). Had a little snack and read some while waiting for the other families to get there. What will it be like? What if everyone thinks I’m crazy and my kids are ridiculous!? More to the point, what if that’s true?? What will the other moms be like? I wonder what kind of homeschooling style they have. Other people are so interesting. And it’s such a relief to hear other people having the same conversations I have hundreds of times a day.

Book club went along just fine. Book club was awesome.

We played for a while at the library, my kids dawdling and being angry about leaving the library, just like they didn’t want to leave the park, or the mall, or the car, or our house. I got frustrated and understand transitions are hard, but we have to find a way to not be fighting about this all the time. I said, “we LEAVE PLACES leave places, ok? It’s a thing. If we never left anywhere, we’d never go anywhere. GET USED TO IT.”

We tried out a new lunch place. It was good that they have nondairy stuff we can eat, but my kids didn’t want to sit nicely because WATERFALL and there was a really cool waterfall near our table. I spilled my drink all over myself trying to pour it into one of my kids’ waterbottles. Because of course I did. “I deserved that.” I said to the waiter who brought me a napkin. I think he said something back, but I was too distracted finding a crayon under the table. “No you didn’t,” he said, smiling at me. Oh. I guess not.

Lunch was good, but I ordered too much. I’m so wasteful like that, even if we did take it with us and ate it later as a car snack. Why aren’t I better at estimating portions served by restaurants I’ve never been to? E ate the leftovers later in the day. That worked out nicely.

We went to a store nearby to look for shoes, now that it was open. It took forever to walk there because kids have to stop and look at every worm on the sidewalk while I try to get them to JUST COME ON already. We have places to be. We rescued a sand-covered worm from certain death on the sidewalk and returned him to a grassy spot where I assume he lives happily to this day. Related: I held a worm today! And then E was brave enough to try it too! We Kikel ladies are shockingly stereotypical in our silly fear of bugs sometimes. But not today!

After some argument lively discussion, we finally agreed on some ‘sparkletastic’ purple and white athletic shoes that light up when E stomps her feet. As if she needed another reason to stomp her feet all the time. They are purple, because I vetoed the pinkalicious ones on the grounds that they were ten dollars more. I felt the imaginary eyes of progressives around me standing in judgment of the fact that I didn’t convince her to get the Captain America light up shoes instead, but it just didn’t seem worth the fight. And she did seem pretty excited…

E: Mama, I NEEEEED them!

K: Um, try again.

E: Mama, I really WAAANNT them!

K: That, I can respect. They have the features I wanted in a shoe (see above re: running, climbing, biking, price point), and the features she wanted in a shoe (see above re: sparkletastic). I like when it works out like that sometimes. She doesn’t need those shoes to be happy, but it’s really ok for her to enjoy them.

I left my wallet in the cart at Costco. I realized it five minutes after driving away with my children and my groceries. I immediately called the store, drove us all back there, looked all around, left my information at the front desk, and called to cancel my debit card right then (because there is a Best Buy next door to the Costco) and antics ensued. It was embarrassing and tiring and irritating. *Sigh* At least I know where I left it, and canceled my debit card right away. That’s a pain, but it’s not the end of the world, and the magnetic strip didn’t work right anyway, so now I’ll have a working card in 4-7 business days.
We picked up J from his appointment, then found out that our friend is home from the hospital (yay!). Then I looked at my phone and saw that another friend had made a big pot of soup and had texted wanting us to come eat it at her house with her family. We did this (the soup was very delicious!!), and were presented with half of a homemade vegan chocolate layer cake to take home with us. Let me say that again. VEGAN. CHOCOLATE. LAYER. CAKE.
Then we arrived home and ten minutes later a man walking his dog in our neighborhood knocked on our door and handed me my wallet, which he had found in the Costco parking lot five minutes after I dropped it then decided to return to me himself when he investigated and found out that we live a street away from each other. His name is Mike, he has a cool friendly dog, and he was very kind.

All in all, it was a good day. I love my neighborhood, I love my friends, I love my patient husband and children.

~~~~~

 

Spirit and Fire and Dew

“You needn’t get in such a fever over it. Do learn to take things calmly, child.”

For Anne to take things calmly would have been to change her nature. All “spirit and fire and dew,” as she was, the pleasures and pains of life came to her with trebled intensity. Marilla felt this and was vaguely troubled over it, realizing that the ups and downs of existence would probably bear hardly on this impulsive soul and not sufficiently understanding that the equally great capacity for delight might more than compensate. Therefore Marilla conceived it to be her duty to drill Anne into a tranquil uniformity of disposition as impossible and alien to her as to a dancing sunbeam in one of the brook shallows. She did not make much headway, as she sorrowfully admitted to herself. The downfall of some dear hope or plan plunged Anne into “deeps of affliction.” The fulfillment thereof exalted her to dizzy realms of delight. Marilla had almost begun to despair of ever fashioning this waif of the world into her model little girl of demure manners and prim deportment. Neither would she have believed that she really liked Anne much better as she was.

Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 22

L. M. Montgomery

 

It is possible, within one’s own head, to play both Marilla and Anne in the same story. But sometimes trying to pretend to be the sort of person you aren’t can just cause you to just be bad at being the sort of person you are. So the answer, then, lies not in changing our selves, but in learning how to keep stuff from piling up on top of those selves such that they become twisted and obscured until we can’t even recognize them any more.

Depression Is Not…

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Depression is not normal in the sense that you should just “get over it.It takes more than that. And what is needed is not the same for every case. I am able to manage very well with a combination of trusted friends to confide in, very intentional introspection, some chocolate and a few episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But that’s me. From what I understand I have a fairly mild case and there is no shame in taking medicine or seeking professional help, if that is what is needed.

Depression is not introversion or shyness. Introverts gain energy from being by themselves. Shy people, for any of a number of reasons, are not outgoing in social situations. Depressed people are people who would otherwise be able to navigate in the world but are having a hard time because of something outside of their true personality (much like sneezing because you have a cold is not part of your body’s normal function).

Depression is not low self-esteem. The fact that I am swimming through jello doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t know my own worth. I mean, it’s always nice to be reminded that I’m great (who doesn’t like hearing that?), and depressed people can have low self esteem as well, but they are not the same thing.

Depression is not weakness or some sort of spiritual short-coming. People do not become depressed because they are not as good or as strong as other people. There are many, many causes and factors involved here and none of them involve depressed people being less capable than others of being useful members of society. Honestly, I think sometimes (though not all the time) my depressive episodes are triggered by impossibly high expectations, which I set for myself and then am unable to meet.

Depression is not being sad for a day or two.  Depression is chronic and persistent, and will not just go away if you pretend it isn’t there.

Depression is not rare. The CDC estimates that 1 in 10 people suffer from depression. And that’s just the people who report it because they are seeking help. For a list of famous people with depression, look here and here. Oh, and here.

Depression is not an excuse to disengage from the world and hide from everyone, forever. Taking some time to yourself is good and necessary. Isolating yourself for your entire life because it’s too hard, while understandable, is not what you were meant for. “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

Depression is not definitive. On the days when it feels like you’re swimming through jello, it’s easy to forget this. But the fact that you’re having a hard time is not the only true thing about you, and all of your days do not have to be this hard. If you’ve had too many in a row, you need help.

Depression is a thing.

But…

Depression is not everything.

Swimming Through Jello

Dealing with depression can be like trying to swim in jello that’s setting up in the refrigerator.

Unless you are paying really close attention, it’s easy to not realize you are having a hard time moving until it’s too late and you’re really, really stuck.

The thing is, things go along normally for a long time. And then gradually things get harder to deal with. Situations get more confusing. Normal interactions seem to take double or triple the work that they should.

But life goes on. Appointments have to be kept. Diapers need changing. Food needs preparing. So I take Ellen Degeneres’s advice and, “Just keep swimming.”

But sometimes, it’s so hard.

And during the jello sort of weeks, I tend to be less graceful than I might be at other times. I flail a bit, calling people at awkward moments, forgetting to call back at others, and generally just incapable of smalltalk.

Sometimes while I am flailing, I will try to reach out for whatever is closest. Sometimes I grab the hand of someone without being able to really explain why I need to be on the phone for a half-hour, or whatever. Sometimes people don’t get it. That’s okay. It’s not their fault; not their job to pull me out of the jello.

But sometimes, people get it. This takes many forms. A meal dropped off, an encouraging word or even just a “Like,” or being willing to stay on the phone with me when I lose my train of……………….

They will smile reassuringly, firmly grab my hand for a minute, and help me get a little further through the jello. They are the hands of God, whether they realize it or not, and the value of these people can NOT be overstated.