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Decisions

Sometimes the things you value will conflict, so you have to choose between them. And it’s hard sometimes.

I’ve been super indecisive lately, a lot because I really am not sure where I am heading in life. It’s also because I really value taking care of my children. But I also value my own personal development and growth. And I value doing what Heavenly Father wants me to do. And I value happiness and enjoyment.

Sometimes I’m not always sure where those intersect. And so I rethink my decisions: is it really worth it to spend time away from my kids in order to work on my own projects?

I’m not always sure. But I do know one thing: I am going to end this blog post right here in order to go spend time with my family.

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What Life Is

We all have our idea of what life should look like. We’re never quite sure where this ideal comes from, but maybe a combination of a lot of things: our childhood, our values, television, social media, the lives of others, etc.

Life should be happy. We should be able to live in a clean, single-family house that is affordable. We should have enough money for food to eat. We should have a well-paying, prestigious career. We should be healthy. We should have good kids who potty-train easily.

We rarely challenge that idea of what life should look like. Even when life turns out to be so much different, filled with chaos, deep questions, discontent, failed dreams, and interrupted plans.

But life doesn’t really actually care what it should look like. Life just is what it is.

There are hard lessons we have to learn:

  • We can’t have it all and instead we constantly face trade-offs.
  • Hard work does not always pay off and sometimes we just fail.
  • There is no perfect job or career.
  • There is no perfect home or neighborhood.
  • Our kids will continually be challenging and have difficult problems throughout their lives.
  • Our health will eventually fail us.

And so much more.

We have to give up our ideal of what life should look like it to better understand what it actually is.

Life is not a happily-ever-after. Life is not continual happiness. Life is learning and growing through making mistakes. Life is continually trying. Life is relearning the same thing over and over again. Life is being able to find joy, but only with imperfect circumstances.

I can’t do it all. No one can. We only have a certain amount of energy. I have occasional days that are really productive and lovely, but I’m not going sustain that long term. There are hard moments, unexpected problems, and it keeps coming and coming.

I have actually been really happy lately, but my happiness has increased as I’ve better accepted where I’m at in life, with all its flaws. I don’t really want to homeschool my children, but I can find joy in it anyway. I struggled with being a stay-at-home mom, but I can love it anyway.

And I know that I can’t do everything I want to. I started a transcription course and I don’t know if I will ever finish it. I would like to start a tiny business, but right now there isn’t time.

Sometimes I have to take a step back, slow down, prioritize taking care of myself, and then move forward again the best I can. I’m not going to get it all done.

And some days I have to strongly resist the temptation to play numb and clock out of life. Because I can’t get away from who I am and what life is, no matter how many YouTube videos I watch.

I have been trying to be more mindful about the decisions I make–I would rather read a book than watch a movie. I would rather spend time with my husband than check off things on my to-do list. I would rather connect with my kids than connect with my email.

And I really just want to accept where I am right now. I am still striving to achieve certain goals to build a different future (we are saving up to buy a house, I am going to school in economics, and my husband will seek out promotions in his work when they come available). But my life right now is where it is. I’m there today, and that’s what matters.

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Life is hard and it sucks and I’m really happy about that

I have no idea where I got it into my head that life could be almost perfect. Maybe it was because of social media and advertising and the fake, perfect lives that I saw represented there. Maybe it was because I grew up with a whole lot of stability and without any major challenges (but even then, life wasn’t perfect.)

I guess I thought that I would get that same stability when I grew up. And then it didn’t happen. We have moved a whole lot, usually to places where I didn’t really want to be at first. While I’ve been able to be a stay-at-home mom and we have so many awesome things going for us, we’ve had a few other challenges that have been hard.

That’s everyone’s life, isn’t it? Usually there are things that are really big blessings, and then some things that just don’t turn out right.

But lately, I’ve really been trying to remove that expectation that life is going to be easy and stable and I’ll settle in sometime and never have any problems. Because that’s not how life works out. Even though we have seasons of happiness and blessings, we also all have seasons of difficulties. And sometimes both of those things come at you at once.

It’s such a happy thing to just accept the challenges of life instead of always trying to fight against them. Acceptance of how life really is feels like removing a heavy weight. Yes, my life doesn’t look like I thought it would be. Sometimes, there are moments that just suck. And since I’ve been trying to accept that, I’m feeling so much happier.

I’m not missing out on something. I’m not somehow messing things up just because I have difficulties. I don’t have to feel guilty if there are days that I want to cry. I don’t have to expect so much out of myself.

Life is hard for everyone. It’s the nature of life. It’s the nature of how we grow and learn. We all deal with disappointments and discouragement. We’re not alone. We’re not missing out on a perfect life–we have our own messy, chaotic lives, and so does everyone.

Isn’t it great?

essay · inspiration

recognizing the blessings in the fabric of your life

My post yesterday was about not achieving your dreams and how that’s okay. But I think we need to realize sometimes how privileged we are to even to be able to dream and set the goals we have in the first place. There are so many people who are merely focused on survival. We often don’t realize how blessed we are because we are seeing our life through a specific lens of what we’re used to.

We usually compare ourselves to people who live similar or better lives than we do, forgetting all the people who struggle and live in a different way. We don’t see outside ourselves. We want to serve and help, but we don’t really want to empathize.

Even though I have dealt with failure and rejection and disappointment, I have four children, a good marriage, a comfortable home–I have so many good things in my life. I have accomplished a lot, but more importantly, life isn’t about the accomplishment anyway.

Life is more about experiences, the stories we tell ourselves and each other, and the ability to keep going and keep trying. Life isn’t about being happy and successful, but about the journey on the way.

So many times, we get so narrow-minded in how we look at things. Our standards and measurements that we apply to ourselves and others are often inaccurate. We could do to love each other more, to be more understanding of different situations, and to see a bigger picture.

I don’t think we can ever the perfect perspective in life–it’s always cloudy and inaccurate. But we can try to recognize the love we have from our Heavenly Father. We can know that eventually, we will be able to make sense of all the difficult things.

During the journey, it’s always good to take time to recognize the blessings that are contained in the very fabric of your life.

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when life doesn’t go according to plan

There is this idea that you can set your goals and dreams and go for it and achieve them, but then there are thousands (or millions) of people who have a different reality: they have goals, they work towards them the absolute best they can, and then they fail.

A writer gets rejected, not just for one book, but for dozens of them.

A lawyer hopes to change the world and help people, but ends up working on messy divorces and collecting money.

A young college student wants to study mammals, but ends up studying insects and then getting stuck in a job as an underpaid lab assistant.

People get rejected constantly: they interview for jobs and then get the call a few days later that someone else was chosen. They apply to their favorite school and they don’t get in.

There are those dealing with even bigger problems: infertility, major health problems, death, tragedy, and so much more.

We don’t celebrate those moments. We don’t talk about the failure. We often hide it. We don’t see articles and books about people who have repeatedly dealt with disappointment without the eventual positive conclusion–in most stories, failure is merely a stepping stone on the pathway to eventual success.

But so many people don’t get that success and have to reframe their life and kill their dreams.

I am sort of tired reading about self-help books from successful people about how other people can be successful too. Because that’s not how the world works. We have humongous failures and mistakes in our life. We have persistent weaknesses and constant rejection.

And that’s just as human and real as those successes. And we need to talk about it more–and not just in a way where we keep encouraging people to keep going until they finally succeed, or we romanticize struggles with an inspiration moral at the end.

We need to embrace that there are average people doing average things and that is what makes the world work. For every major success, there are usually so many failures without any happy conclusions.

(I’ve probably written this exact same thing before, but I don’t mind repeating myself.)

essay · my life

Thoughts on marriage and living without my husband

From October to December of this year, I spent most of the time living with myself and my children while my husband worked about four hours away. He came and saw us most weekends, but a lot of the times it was just me. And it was hard.

Now that I’m living back with my husband, I find that I have a whole lot more time and things are a lot easier in many ways. Dillon cleans a lot, something that I need to be more grateful for. Without him, I was a wreck sometimes and my house was a disaster.

But it’s not just the cleaning. He helps take care of my kids. He supports me over and over again. Without him, it was so hard emotionally to wake up and just go through day after day by myself with the kids to take care of. I would go days without speaking in person to an adult.

I gained a new empathy for single moms. I wasn’t a single mom–I could still call my husband and he visited often. But it was still really hard.

Single moms have to do the impossible. I learned that if I didn’t have a husband, I couldn’t do it on my own. While I spent days by myself, I didn’t ever have to worry about finances and how to make money. I was relying on my husband’s income. And there was enough to do with taking care of my kids and cooking and cleaning and trying to keep it all together (and failing at times).

Logistically, I couldn’t make it as a single mom right now, and I’m very glad I don’t have to. But there are so many single moms out there who have to do it. It can be easy to blame them or to just expect them to figure it out, but it’s very different when you are in the situation and trying to make things work.

Some days were fine. Life wasn’t miserable at all. But it was more difficult and it took much more effort. I learned a lot about myself–I tend to be a little bit too lazy, but at the same time, I can get weird expectations of myself and I make myself feel like a failure when I’m doing okay. And I learned that happiness doesn’t have to do with where you are as much as who you are. I get miserable because I don’t leave my house some days, but that’s just a choice I can make that’s independent of circumstances. I learned I need to step up more and I am more capable than I realize.

I am so grateful for my own husband. He has a career where we live out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere where it’s too far away for my kids to go to public school. But it is so much better being with him than living so far apart. The kids are happier. I am happier. Everyone is happier. We can do so much more together than we ever could do it on our own.

If anyone is reading this who is doing it on their own–I know that I never really came close to the things that you experience. I only understand a little bit how hard it is. But just appreciate yourself for trying every day. Because that’s all there is in life: we wake up, and we keep trying.

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Two Thoughts on Economics and Life

1.

I was sitting in church, listening to a lesson where we were talking about helping each other and how it is good to receive help. We often find it difficult to be vulnerable and ask for the things that we both need and want. We try to do it all on our own, thinking that that is the best way.

Well, I was in a microeconomics class at the time and I had recently gone over a chapter about the advantages of trade. Basically, trade can make everyone a lot better off. In my textbook, we had examples like when two different countries make shirts and airplanes. Even if one country is better than the other at making both shirts and airplanes, they might have a comparative advantage making airplanes, while the other one has a comparative advantage of making shirts. So the countries become better off specializing and trading instead of just doing it all themselves.

And I think that’s applicable to life. I can do everything myself, but I am really good at some things while other people are really good at other things. And if we come together and trade, we will both be better off.

Of course, we don’t really usually think about trading too much with other people in small ways. But I think we could more often: If you watch my kids, I’ll bring dinner. If I do this website for you, you can help teach my kids. That sort of thing. We are more efficient when we work together, so there’s no point in always trying to do it all on our own.

Sometimes, I have had people visit me and I clean while they are there. I don’t need them to help, though they can if they would like. Then when we are done, we are both benefited by a clean house and by the conversation with each other. I would rather do that than visit in a messy house.

And we don’t always need to trade straight across, but we can have a general understanding that if we help one another and both give and receive help, that we will all be better off.

***

2.

One of the principles of economics is that everyone faces trade-offs.

Sometimes we think of life as a bunch of choices between right and wrong. If we choose right, then everything will be okay.

But instead, many of the choices we face are not between right and wrong or good and bad. We might face two good options. Or two bad options. Or dozens of options that are all just okay. We have trade-offs.

I’ve faced a lot of trade-offs lately. I have had to try to decide what is the best option instead of having one exactly right option to choose from. I want there to be right and wrong answers, but often it’s much more complicated than that. I have to figure out how to make complicated, life-changing trade-offs.

It can get really tough, particularly because we don’t know the future and sometimes it’s really hard to know how to weigh things right. I’m not certain of many of the results of the major decisions that I make.

I can crave for decisions that don’t involve any trade-offs, decisions that appear completely black and white and easy. But that’s not life. Life is hard and messy at times. It’s just how it is.

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Remembering others in hard times

There have been times when I think about all the hard things that are happening and I feel like I’m alone and abnormal and that so many other people have it better than I do.

Of course, that’s not true. Life is universally hard. We all go through very difficult things: childbirth is hard, death is hard, and all the space in-between can get really difficult too.

So why do we get thinking that things should always be great? Why do we avoid pain so much?

I am never alone in struggle. People struggle. They cry. They yell and scream. They feel awful.

I have found that I have been the most discouraged when I thought that other people have better circumstances than I do–or if they do have hard circumstances, they probably handle it better. But those are both false. No matter how overwhelming my challenges may seem, someone has been there before. And they may not have handled it any better than I am. They struggled too.

So suffering doesn’t need to be lonely. We don’t ever need to think that things should be better. They are what they are, and there are a lot of people who do understand.

When I remember that other people struggle, I feel better able to keep going. Lots of people are worse off than I am. And lots of people struggle to be strong.

But people usually get through it. Even though pain is universal, so is happiness. There is always hope. There is always the next step, and we rarely have to take it alone.

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Keeping Calm

Today was an interesting day: when I came out of the shower, there was a strong smell in the air and my daughter was crying. I quickly found her along with half of a bottle of barbecue sauce on the kitchen counter. She was crying because she was covered in barbecue sauce and she kept slipping around in it and didn’t know what to do.

But there was more.

The boys had managed to find a dry erase marker and they had written on lots of things, including my brand-new door that we had just made (and we haven’t painted it yet, so I will have to literally sand out the ink). I thought it was the youngest one, but when I discovered the word Pokemon written on the wall later on in the day, I realized that it was not the youngest one. It was my kindergartner, who had been quite happy to not take the blame for it, but he was perfectly honest when I asked him directly.

And to top things of, the boys had also gotten knives out of the drawer and thought they would make good toys.

It was a moment. But I was calm. I didn’t yell. No one got into trouble, though I made sure to instruct them that we don’t write on the walls or play with knives or leave out the barbecue sauce with the lid off. I cleaned everything up. And that was that.

It didn’t stop there, of course: at dinner time, a bottle of spray cheese ended up breaking and spraying cheese everywhere. And then my son also spilled part of a bowel of cereal on the couch/piano bench/carpet.

I was still calm.

I am sorry to say that I have quite often yelled quite a lot in these situations. I get overwhelmed and think it’s just too much. I’m frustrated and I don’t want to clean up the messes.

But you know what? Messes are usually fairly easy to clean up (thank you, enzyme spray and magic eraser, you are my best friends today).

And the feeling I get when I yell is awful. Yelling doesn’t teach my kids anything, except maybe how to throw tantrums and yell. They listen when I’m calm. And when I’m calm, I feel better.

I feel powerful. If I can stay calm when all this is going on, I can do anything.

I can’t control the messes that have already happened. But I can control me. Because parenting is very first about controlling yourself; it is never about controlling your children.

My kids are going to make a lot of messes. The messes will change from food on the carpet to other struggles, but they will always be making messes. I am still making messes.

But messes can be cleaned up. And I can always love my children, no matter how big the mess.

essay · fractured

so much

I keep writing and the words are difficult to express. Life is so much bigger than I ever imagined. It is filled with so much more joy, sorrow, questions, answers, doubt, and faith. It is so much more complicated sometimes, and yet in other moments it seems so incredibly simple.

When I moved to our new home, I knew it would be difficult. But I did it anyway. And it has been difficult. But there have also been such good moments: working on this house and cleaning it out and making new things like doors and curtains; playing games or reading books with my children in the evening, exhausted but knowing that it’s important to give them those moments; the kind words and the prayers from my friends and my family; looking outside at the beautiful fall farm landscape that surrounds me.

I miss my husband quite a lot. We’ve had deep disappointments, doubts, and discouragement, but at the end of it, I know things will work out for our good. That doesn’t mean we will have an easy life and get everything we think we want–it means that we will be able to learn and to be made into better people. It means that we will have experiences that will make us a little more kind and a little more humble. It means that we will look back and be so glad that everything happened the way it did.

I am at a place where I can’t accomplish my to-do list anymore. It’s simply too big and I don’t have the time of day to accomplish all of it and properly take care of myself and my children. So I try to take care of the things that matter most. Then the laundry doesn’t get folded and the house never gets dusted and the microwave is still dirty. It is a strange feeling to leave so much undone, since for the most part throughout my life, I have been able to accomplish whatever I set my mind to.

But now I have to prioritize things. And I get quite a peaceful feeling in knowing that the things that don’t really matter will wait for later.

I’m not perfect. My computer sucks me in. The kids watch too many movies sometimes. I forget to put pellets in the fireplace and the fire goes out.

But I’m going to keep trying. That’s hope right there: I’m an incredibly flawed person and life is hard and I’m going to keep at it anyway.