Bare (Part IV)

I told Janey that I had lost myself.

I admitted through tears that I felt like a terrible mother because of the anger that battered at my rib cage, shredding my patience and perspective and rendering me unsympathetic and unenergetic. I used to be a creative mother. Not so very long ago, it seemed, though also a lifetime, my days were spent happily consumed by my children, my husband and my novel. Now something about a tiny voice demanding another cracker as the unholy amount of crumbs accumulated on my just-swept-AGAIN floor felt so unreasonable and so overwhelming.

I told Janey that I was desperate to know what had changed.

I told her I suspected it was New York. New York is a force. In that place, my family and I banded together so tightly and so awesomely by a desire to conquer this awesome city that we became unconquerable. I had never felt closer. Never felt such purpose in Motherhood flowing through my veins. The daily demands of living for my children in that place created a saint and a warrior in me.

And it was all lost to me.

I admitted that I felt resentful of Bill for being the reason we left that place. EVEN THOUGH I knew it wasn't Bill. EVEN THOUGH we made that decision together, and it was with great prayer and great discussion and was oh-so-very-much-NOT a decision we made lightly. I knew beyond a doubt that we were TOLD to leave New York and go to Utah - and that it was against BOTH of our own desires - but that Bill and I and our house, we had chosen to serve the Lord; and this was His assignment for us. The next phase. The next adventure. But almost immediately, it wasn't an adventure at all and felt very very disappointing to me. Not to mention that the job Bill took that brought us back to Utah lasted only 3 months before it was clear it was not a good fit for him or our family.

So why? Why did I have to leave my beautiful city of color and culture and constant adventure? What was the POINT?!

It felt like Bill's career path was supposed to be more important than my happiness. That is a hard thing to admit, here, as it was to Janey then because I could see then as I do now how faulty this thinking is. But my emotional turmoil was taking me off the beaten path of truth and logic. All I had was my sorrow, my rage and my desperation to understand it, and I was willing to grasp at anything that might offer some kind of sense.

And if that was hard to admit, here, this is excruciating: I think I resorted to blaming my husband because it was easier than blaming God. I didn't want to face the ugly truth that because I didn't understand this new plan (and I had always felt so carefully and lovingly carried and cared for by Him, before), that now I felt the giant question in my gut as proof that I didn't have enough trust in Him. I didn't want to be angry at God. That just felt way too awful. I knew He hadn't abandoned me. I knew it. But it still somehow felt like it. It felt like I was supposed to be quiet and suck-it-up so that Bill could figure out this job thing without me complaining like a child who's turn with the cool toys had just ended.

You can imagine how guilty and selfish all this made me feel.

So I tried not to blame Bill or his job for ripping me away from New York. I tried not to blame Utah and all of its vanilla and beige because I knew it was irrational to hate a place like it had any real power of my internal architecture. And I tried not to let the giant question devour me from the inside out.

But the tricky thing was that no matter how hard I tried, I was just never in control. The question was always there. Why? I had been so happy. I was challenged and felt strong and every day was exhausting, but full! It felt like such a step forward for our family. We were finally taking off! Surely whatever happened next would be bigger and better - Ireland, maybe? So why did I have to leave all that for confined days that seemed to drag on, a house that was breaking down but didn't have any of the charm of our apartment near Fort Tryon park and didn't have ANYTHING AT ALL even remotely interesting within walking distance? Why on earth was this the next step in our life's plan?!

And—more importantly—why the sudden and complete inability to cope? That was unusual for me.

My verbal spouting began to die down and I felt...relief.

Okay. There it was in one ugly lump. Laid bare before a trained professional who would smooth it out for me and give me back to myself.


I shuddered a sigh. Janey regarded me.

So now what? I thought.

The first thing I learned in that first therapy session is that leaving New York was not the cause of my depression. It was just the trigger that was finally powerful enough that I couldn't ignore it. For that I will always be grateful. ESPECIALLY to God, who understood me well enough to know that I would never be able to progress as much as I wanted to without some major tweaking and refining back at the source. Sometimes you have to break something down before you can build something stronger.

The second thing is what first put the bug in my brain that I would eventually need to share this story. "I think you would be surprised," Janey said, "by how many women struggle with living in what you referred to as the "vanilla and beige" of Utah." She told me that it can feel very isolating, but that you wouldn't have to stretch your arm very far to find another who feels chafed by the molds this place and culture are constantly trying to shove each other and ourselves into.

And none of it is real.

Let me clarify. The molds are real. Or, at least, they are perceived to be real. That there are those who believe that there is a certain way of being a Utah Mormon Housewife that is more correct is a real thing that happens, here.

But the idea that we have to maintain a specific image in order to be a valid card-carrying member in this society is not real.

This was both validating and alarming to me. Validating to know that I don't have to try to fit myself into little string-tied packages for others in the name of providing a more comfortable level of understanding. And alarming because—if there are so many of us who dislike these perceptions and feel hammered down by them...why aren't they changing?

And thus, my world began to be rocked to the core with the awesomeness of gritty self-discovery. should probably be aware that there's a lot more, here. So, if you found yourself thinking, Good gravy, there's a part four?! Does it never end?!? Consider yourself warned. Also: I never promised to be concise. Or even clear, really. You can look it up.

...You should probably also be aware that I have no plans to start a campaign for the dismantling of the dreaded cookie-cutter molds of society, or smearing colorful paint on anyone's beige walls. I do, however, want to share how I'm learning to live outside the box-type-thinking, and how that has caused a dismantling and color-splashing movement all its own.


Nae said...

"Sometimes you have to break something down before you can build something stronger."

Have I mentioned that I love you? That I love the fact that we're related? That I love the way you write? And that I love how marvelous you are to splash colors all over the blank wall of "Mommy blues?"

Because I should mention it. :)

Anne said...

I'm anxiously awaiting part V. I have always felt trapped here (Utah). I just don't fit into the molds and I need something more from life. Love your writing!

Emily said...

I love all of this. ALL. OF. THIS. And you.

Tamsin North said...

1) I love you, friend.
2) I think everyone should go see a therapist at least once in their life.
3) I've never really felt the pressure of those molds. I suspect that might have something to do with me coming from a different country (or two) and therefore never really expecting to fit in completely anyway. People give you a lot of leeway when you're a foreigner. :)
4) Splash away, my friend. Splash away.

Teresa Clark - Storyteller said...

I want more of the story!
Love you and love your work. The world needs more women of courage, like you. Can't wait for Part V.