Thursday, October 07, 2010

My defenses are down

Life's been tough for me lately. Katie's sleeping has not improved and with a few illnesses, it's probably gotten worse. I'm up to feed and comfort her about three times every night then up for the day at 6:30 sharp every morning. Naps are short, often interrupted, or simply not enough to cover the sleep-debt. (But that 80 minute nap I got two days ago? Wow! Like a cool breeze on a sweltering day. I felt so refreshed.)

I crave sleep the way a starving person craves food.

My body is starting to rebel at the abuse I'm submitting it to. I've gotten sick a handful of times this past month and I just can't seem to get over the illnesses the way I would if I was sleeping well.

My defenses are down.

Retrenching has helped some, as I've cut out a lot of extras -- photoshoots, blogging, and most notably the long walks I was taking with a good friend (and just when I finally found a consistent walking partner!). I've been spending more time on the foundation of a clean and organized home. Despite my exhaustion, things around here are running pretty smoothly and I'm amazingly (with Heaven's help) able to handle patiently most of the demands on me.

But still, I've broken down into tears a half dozen times this month, feeling that the weight of everything just might crush me. Every problem, from messy bathrooms to irresponsible children, seems to require more of me and I feel so stretched as it is. I'll spare you the details, but a couple of big, weighty problems have been thrown at me lately and I just don't feel enough to handle them -- I'm not smart enough, rested enough, mature enough, or good enough.

But despite all that, there are good things about going through tough times. I've had experiences I know have come from God, times when I've received peace, comfort and reassurance that God knows me and loves me and honors the work I'm doing and the sacrifices I'm making, even as He whispers that I need to experience this and that the exhaustion is likely to continue for some time into the future.

This past weekend was our Church's General Conference, a time when we are able to hear counsel and direction from our leaders and those we honor as modern-day prophets. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke of what we can learn from tree-rings and turbulence. (you can listen to his message here or read it here.)

In times of stress, a tree's growth slows down. In times of turbulence, an airline pilot (President Uchtdorf's former profession) needs to set the pace at an optimum level, which is often slower than usual. It's tempting during turbulence for inexperienced pilots to want to fly faster, thinking to get through it quicker, but instead, the answer is to slow down and focus on the basics of flying the plane.

We need to do the same, President Uchtdorf encouraged. We need to simplify and focus on the essential things of life during times of stress and difficulty.

For me, the basics are my own spiritual strength, with daily prayer and scripture study, followed by the needs of my marriage, my family, and my home.

As I contemplated Monday morning how I could further simplify my life, I received a clear answer. Next week, our family has a fun trip planned to San Diego. I was looking forward to it, to spending time at Legoland for the first time, to enjoying our fun family time at the beach, and to taking lots of beautiful photos.

A month ago, when I'd talked to my husband about ways I could cut back, we put it out there that maybe I could stay home from the trip and use the time to rest. It was an option we'd consider, but I didn't really think I'd stay home. I'm going, I thought. Surely, by the time the trip happens, I'll be sleeping better, the girls' naps will be coordinated better and I won't be sick anymore.

But the month passed and things haven't improved. My defenses are down, so it's time to get creative with a new defense.

I'm staying home from the trip. As soon as I decided that, I felt a great peace. It is absolutely the right thing to do for my health and the health of my family. I'll stay home with my oldest daughter (who was thrilled at the chance to go on a fun field trip she didn't want to miss -- no regrets on her part!) and my two littlest. I'll spend some time getting some badly-neglected areas of my home in order. I'll enjoy a clean house and some quieter time, and I'll be able to nap quite easily and catch my breath.

Just think -- a whole week with just two little ones to care for. My house will stay clean! I won't have to do much cooking! None of that after-school juggling, where everyone shoves at me their permissions slips and problems while I try to help the twins through their math and reading homework. No guarding the hen house at night (that's what we call sitting in the little girls' room until the three of them fall asleep. We have to do that or they run around, read books, play games and have a grand old time all night long). No arguments with a certain child who thinks I'm out to get him (he told me the other day that I'm just looking for him to mess up. It's like I'm Snape and he's Harry Potter.)

I should be thrilled, and I know I will be. After all, aren't Daddy trips my favorite time of year? And what a huge blessing to have in the midst of my tough time a week to recuperate. Not to mention I have a pretty awesome husband, who thinks traipsing across the country alone with five little kids is a grand adventure.

But is it okay if I cry a little about what I'm giving up? I wanted to go. I wanted to enjoy this family vacation. I especially wanted to see my kids hanging out on the beach, looking at rocks and shells, chasing waves, catching hermit crabs.

There will be other times, I know, and lots of them (our family is a little obsessed with trips, have you noticed?), and this really will be a wonderful week. I hope to emerge on the other side of it more rested, more excited, and more ready to meet the challenges of my life.

After all, I have the best job there is. I get to be the most important person in the world to eight amazing, beautiful, wonderful children.

Who could ask for more than that?


Courtney said...

I am glad that you share the ups as well as the downs. We too have the little girl party going on all night long. It is so frustrating. I have tried reading to them, books on tape, bribing them with treats... but nothing beats playing with a sister.

Kacy said...

I think your simplifying needs to be even simpler. I'm glad you are staying home and I really hope you do get to do nothing. I am so refreshed by solitude. And sleep. Take it easy.

Cynthia said...

I think you are smart enough, mature enough and good enough to accomplish any task - you are just tired and I know how hard that makes day to day life let alone dealing with lifes obstacles. I hope you get the break and rest that you very much need - you really do have an awesome husband that is willing to take off with five kids all alone.

Natalie said...

I can't imagine trying to do all that you do, even well rested. I'm sure your decision to stay home was really difficult, but I hope it's just what the doctor ordered! I loved that talk too. Such a great reminder, and it sounds like it was very timely for you. Have a wonderful break enjoying your babies and hopefully lots of down time=)

Wendy said...

Wow! I'm glad you put your feelings out there like this. It makes me really know and understand you better, and know that you really are just human and not super woman!! (Although, in some areas I really think you are)

If you ever need a little break from the baby let me know, I'd be happy to watch her for you for a little bit. Especially if you really feel so frustrated and really drained.

Amber said...

I love reading your blog. I hope you can get some good rest. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way sometimes. There is so much to juggle and do with many children-- I only have 7-- I'm not sure there are enough hours in the day. It seems to be getting busier too. Good luck!!

Gary and Debbie Rex said...

That was my very favorite talk, too. I learned a good lesson about how much harder we can make our lives during those difficult periods. Good luck with everything this week. We're actually heading to San Diego next week, too - I just might have to think about borrowing your great idea. I don't think there's a mom of a young baby that couldn't use a little more time to do what needs to be done (namely, SLEEP :) ).

Mostly Diane said...

I really hope this turns around for you soon. I am sorry that means not going on your vacation with your family. But, I hope sleep will come together for you soon and that this will be a way for you to get some rest in the mean time. Of course, you will have to put naps well ahead of getting those projects finished ;).

Claire said...

I'm sorry she is still not sleeping more. I will pray for you...that God gives you an extra does of energy and patience, and that little Miss Katie gets on a better schedule soon. Even with half as many kids in my house, I know that sleepless nights make everything else seem so much harder.

Jacki said...

I hope you're having a great week. I'm sorry you have to miss an exciting trip. I hope that you feel rejuvenated when they return!

SuburbanZoo said...

Thank you for linking back to this one. I really needed it today. Love and miss you!


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