Life is not a roller coaster

I have often thought that life was like a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs.

And then I realized one day that life isn’t a roller coaster at all. I’m not simply heading up or down–it’s way more complex than that. It’s a journey, taking lots of different paths.

When it snows, the snow gets deposited in the mountains for months. Then it melts, and runs down in so many different ways until finally, it arrives at its destination. The water has lots of different destinations: The water can become part of a beautiful lake. It can run into a reservoir and then be used to irrigate crops and flowers. It can sink down into the water table and come up again in a well for plumbing and drinking. And you know what? In each of those instances, the water doesn’t do any good on top of the mountain. It has to flow into the valley before it’s worth anything.

If the rain is really focused on ups and downs, it will completely neglect to realize why it is there.

We go through so many different journeys throughout our lives. I read the other day that you don’t figure out how to write a novel–you just figure out the specific novel you are writing. And life is like that–you don’t figure out how to live. You just figure out what you need to do right now with your own specific circumstances.

So while we want to be happy, happiness is not found at the top of the roller coaster of life. It can be found in the deep valleys and even with the weight of the world pressing down. We are happy not when life is easy; we are happy when we find our purpose and we are doing our best to live it.

 

enjoying the pain

This is hard to explain, but I will try.

Probably my whole life, I have hated feeling certain things: anger, guilt, confusion, and discouragement. I would try to avoid feeling, but you know what happens when you try not to feel something? You might end up feeling it a lot more intensely.

So because I hate feeling angry, I feel even angrier. Because I avoid being discouraged, I get more discouraged. Because I try not be depressed, I feel depressed.

I’ve been reading a book about acceptance and commitment therapy. I read a section where someone said they had learned to enjoy feeling anxious. Feeling anxious is just part of life. We all feel it. And it’s okay to feel it.

It’s okay to be angry and sad and discouraged and confused. It’s okay to feel those things. And when it’s okay, and you accept those feeling in your life, then things become a lot better. You can actually learn to enjoy the pain, in a way. People who exercise a lot, or love going on roller coasters, or love intensive jobs have learned how to enjoy pain because they know it makes them better.

I will always have times where I feel anger, guilt, and sadness. But when I allow myself to feel those things, instead of fighting against them and closing myself up, I can start to live my life again.

A few days ago, I was angry at my husband. But I accepted that. I didn’t fight it. And it went away. I removed myself from that fight (he didn’t really do anything wrong anyway) and just let it happen. I didn’t yell and try to make the problem go away. It just existed, and that was fine–I could feel angry and jealous and all of that without needed to resolve it. And then later, I was playing with my kids and I found myself laughing, and laughing a lot. I let myself feel anger–and then I was able to let myself feel joy. (This is still a major work in progress.)

I can find a lot more positive emotions, like laughter and happiness, because I’m no longer afraid of my own feelings.

Emotions have never been my enemy. They are my friend. Even the grief and depression and the anxiety and the worry. They are all part of my life. And I can accept them. I am more than how I feel.

I don’t know if that will make any sense to you. Because I have heard the same message over and over again and I never really understood. I still hated my feelings.

But today, I don’t.

Thoughts on Pacing Myself

  • It can be better to do a little bit regularly than a lot all at once.
  • Just because I can fit it all on my list doesn’t mean that I should fit it all on my list.
  • It’s okay to have quiet moments.
  • Transitions take time. Plan for them.
  • I always underestimate the amount of time something will take me. I usually have to double it.
  • I often need to lower expectations for myself in order for me to do more. Freeing myself of my own high expectations allows me to be a lot happier.
  • I do a lot more than I think I do.
  • I can’t sustain a really high level of doing everything I possibly can and I often crash after trying. To avoid crashes, it can be better not to do quite as much.
  • Keeping up my mental and physical health takes time, and sometimes much more time than I expect, but it’s really important.
  • Sometimes what I want to do when I’m exhausted will simply make me more tired.
  • Being present with myself and my life is a much better way to deal with exhaustion.
  • I can’t perfect myself and my life all at once. I have to work a little bit at a time.
  • I can keep going in a good direction, even if it is slow.

A new decade

I have a significant birthday coming up–only significant because we have ten fingers on our hands and therefore we have a base-ten system and we get fascinated with decades. If we were using a base-twelve system, there would be nothing significant about my birthday at all.

But here we are. I’m entering a new decade and therefore I’m reflective. I’m not going to be young anymore.

In the last decade, I have graduated from college, gotten married, had two-full time jobs, and had four children and became a stay-at-home mom. We’ve lived in three different states and moved a lot. I’ve supported my husband in his school and career. I’ve also self-published two novels, maintained multiple blogs, taken a lot of photographs, worked on my family history, and decorated multiple houses. And I’ve read at least 52 books every year. I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve been part of different communities. I’ve taught my children as well as I can.

I am in a good place right now, and I’m heading in a good direction. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve done enough, particularly because life has not turned out how I expected it to. I have failed in some things. I have never been a successful writer, and now I don’t plan on pursuing writing anymore. I have dealt with some mental health issues and I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. Some times I don’t feel like I’ve done enough.

But being a mom was always been my dream, and I am so incredibly grateful for my family. They are enough. If I hadn’t accomplished anything on my own, I could be happy knowing that I am doing my best to raise my four children and have a happy home and a happy family.

And next to my family, I am most grateful for the friends that I have made. I miss friends I have moved away from a whole lot, but I am grateful for the opportunity to make friends in new places. Friendship is one of the biggest accomplishments there is in life–and it can be hard sometimes, but it’s worth it.

I don’t know

Recently, I was teaching a lesson in church and someone commenting mentioned that even though she was sharing advice, she didn’t feel like she had it all figured out. I feel the same way a lot. If you could look into my day-to-day operations, you would know that I do not have it all together and I make mistakes on a constant basis.

But I keep trying. And that’s enough, because trying is all I’ve got. When I yell at my kids, I’m going to apologize and try not to yell again. When I spend half the day in my pajamas doing nothing, I’m going to get up and get in the shower and clean the house. When I fail at my goals, I’m going to keep setting goals anyway.

I know a lot more than I can actually do. I know what I want my life to look like, but I can’t always actually put that into effect. There is a large gap there, and there always will be.

So some days I don’t have advice because I’m not perfect and I make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes are quite overwhelming. I am so deficient in so many ways. But so is everyone.

And it doesn’t matter if I have it figured out. I can keep taking that next step anyway.

(I wrote this post because I was procrastinating cleaning my house.)

Recognize your struggles

It’s okay to fall down.

It’s okay to have a hard time. The hard time exists whether you admit or not. It’s easier to admit it.

It’s okay to realize that lemons are really sour and not make lemonade. Sometimes you don’t want to hide the sour; you want it to use it.

It’s okay to cry when bad things happen. You don’t have to be happy all the time.

It’s okay to make mistakes and struggle and admit that you aren’t doing great. The mistakes are there whether you admit them or not.

It’s okay to forget about the silver linings for a moment and just admit that things are difficult. Silver linings don’t take away all the pain.

It’s okay to think that life is hard. Because it is.

It is okay to realize that your dreams are never going to happen and that you have failed in certain ways. Sometimes dreams don’t work with reality.

We can accept life for what it is. And sometimes life is messy and difficult. But it’s also happy and wonderful too. It’s all of that together. It doesn’t have to be always happy and good. It doesn’t always have to be sad either. Sometimes it’s a mess of in-between.

But we wake up every morning, we decide what we’re going to do next, and that’s all we have.

I’ve spent too much of my life trying to force it into a specific template instead of just letting it be how it is. And when I accept life for what it is, I am much more able to do that next thing instead of worrying about what I wished would have happened.

I’m trying, and the trying is enough.

 

Changing Passions

I’ve changed a lot over the years:

  • At one point when I was young, I wanted to work with animals when I grew up because I loved animals so much. I grew up, and I don’t even like animals very much anymore.
  • I also thought I would write and publish young adult novels. I used to read young adult fantasy novels all the time and I thought I would read them for the rest of my life. And while I still read them on occasion, they are not my favorite books. I read more boring books now, like lots of nonfiction.
  • I loved Harry Potter. And I still like the books, but with everything Harry Potter is now, I don’t care for it very much.
  • I majored in English and philosophy. And it was great for that time in my life. But if I were to go back to school again, I would major in something like economics.
  • I was quite a shy person and I would have considered myself an introvert, but then I became a stay-at-home mom and I suddenly figured out that I love being with other people.

Now, these things were huge parts of who I was. And they changed. And I know that I’m going to keep changing as my life continues. I’ve gone in completely different directions than I ever thought. I’ve changed so many of my opinions, viewpoints, and fears. I’ve changed what I like to do. I’ve changed parts of my personality and how I act.

There are certain things that have stayed the same and I expect will stay the same the rest of my life, particularly my deepest held convictions like my faith in God, my love for family, and my desire to be a good person.

But so much of my life and who I am right now is temporary. It won’t be that way for forever. It isn’t really who I am in the long run–it’s just what’s happening right now.

Sometimes we think when we are young that we’re going to decide who we are going to be for the rest of our lives and we’re just going to go forward with our plans and live the life we imagined. But in my experience, life gets a whole lot more complicated than that. We change and evolve. It’s a good thing–I think I’ve gotten better over the years, after all. And while I’m not achieving the same life goals I had when I was young, I’m still working towards good things.

Change is good. Because the person who I was before is not quite as capable as the person I am now. Some things I thought were really important turned out not to be very important at all. Some things that were afterthoughts have become the primary focus of my life.

And I’m happy to be here, right now, even if this isn’t the life I envisioned. Because who I am right now and the life that actually happened is a whole lot better than I ever expected.

Happiness

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Happiness is not dependent on circumstance.

Every other time we’ve moved, we really wanted to move. We moved after months of job searching, or after living with my parents, or after living in places we didn’t like. But this last time, while we felt like it was time to move, we liked the life we had. I felt like I was part of a community that I didn’t really want to leave.

Some days, I miss my friends, schools, and my house. Our new life is frankly a whole lot harder: I’m homeschooling now, my husband works longer hours, I’m really far away from town, and I gave up my green yard for a yard full of cactus and red sand. My house is smaller too. It’s taking some adjustment.

But I realized something one morning: my happiness is not dependent on my circumstance. Which means that I don’t have to like where I live to be happy. Happiness does not wait for life to be perfect–it can be here now.

Sometimes I fall into a trap of thinking that I have to see the good in everything. And sometimes, things are just hard and unpleasant. And I can accept that. It’s part of life.

I don’t have to love the paint color on my walls or enjoy my rather narrow kitchen. I don’t have to love every minute of spending all day, every day with my four children. There are things about my life right now that I don’t like and I don’t want. And that’s okay. Because I can still be happy.

It’s takes a lot of pressure off myself to say that I don’t have to enjoy every minute and I don’t have to like every single part of my life–and to then realize that I can still wake up smiling.

There are so many good things, and the good things are enough to outweigh everything lacking. And even when the difficult and hard things are completely overwhelming–it’s okay to cry. I don’t have to be happy all the time to have a happy life.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to dream of something better. It’s okay to feel whatever I’m feeling.

Sometimes I beat myself up for things that I do that aren’t even wrong. I expect myself to fit in a weird, impossible framework that I built up in my own mind. The perfection that I think I want isn’t practical–and it doesn’t exist.

Life isn’t perfect. Life isn’t fair. Life will always be sort of hard. That’s what life is–a roller coaster of ups and downs as circumstances constantly change.

So happiness does not need to wait–it can happen right now. Even if my house is a wreck. Even if I’m really tired. Even if I didn’t accomplish anything in a day. Even if I don’t particularly like where I live. Even if my life looks so different from I ever imagined–and I still wish for dreams that I’m not sure will ever happen.

My happiness isn’t dependent on any of that. Happiness comes not in the accomplishment, but in the trying.

So I’m feeling happy. Not because my life somehow got easier, but because I decided to stop expecting the impossible.

Fitting in

Do you feel like you aren’t good enough? That you don’t fit in? That you’ll never quite be able to connect with other people? That you are too different?

We all have those feelings at some point or another.

I just moved from a very tiny town in Wyoming to a tourist town in the middle of a whole bunch of national parks. The vibe here is so completely different. I need to relearn how to drive because there are actually lots of people. And traffic. It’s weird.

There are days when I feel like I don’t fit in. People like adventure here–hiking, biking, camping, rafting, whatever. Outdoor recreation is why this place exists.

And I like small adventures, like going on quarter-mile walk and leaving my house. Right now, I only go on short hikes and short camping trips. I do like to canoe, but I still have no idea what I’m doing and I go in the wrong direction. I usually have to force myself to exercise.

I’m surrounded by off-roading Jeeps, river trips through rapids, and mountain bikes–and I suddenly feel a bit inadequate. I’m a suburban-type of person who keeps ending up far away from the suburbs.

But instead of worrying about fitting in, I can be happy with where I’m at and recognize my own talents. Sometimes when I tell people I’ve written books, they seem impressed–but I don’t think it’s really that impressive. I just have a whole bunch of rejection letters and incredibly low sales. It’s mostly a hobby I’m a bit embarrassed about.

I look at people sometimes and I am so impressed with them: taking amazing photographs, or running races, or owning their business, or putting on effortless and beautiful makeup. Or doing all of the above.

But they probably don’t think of themselves that way. Because there is always someone who does more and does it better.

So instead of comparing and worrying about fitting in, it’s a whole lot better to recognize your strengths (you have them–you have a lot of them) and to learn from others and celebrate differences.

I fit in here. Not because I fit the mold, but because I am who I am and that’s enough.

Having it all

We can’t have it all.

As mothers, sometimes we feel pressure to do everything: work, stay-at-home, go back to school, start a new business, sign our kids up for various programs, do a better job at taking care of our house, whatever.

I know a lot of moms who work–and it’s really hard to balance work with family and home. You often feel like you are always in the wrong place. I know a lot of moms who stay at home–and it’s really hard to feel like you have purpose when you stay at home. Sometimes you battle loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem. And there are a lot of moms who are somewhere in-between.

There is always too much to do.

Motherhood requires sacrifice, no matter what your life looks like. And your life will never be quite the ideal. Something always seems to be missing.

And we are often worried about what others think. No one has the ideal life, really–it’s just a whole bunch of messiness. No one has it figured out in a way that’s right for everyone–we have to figure out our own specifics.

Sometimes that means working. Sometimes that means going back to school. Sometimes that means saying that now is not the right time. Sometimes it means really long days at home with your children.

We need to stop judging other people for whatever choices they make. But more importantly, we need to stop judging ourselves and instead just continue on the best that we know how.

We can count our blessings and help each other figure out how our individual lives should look like. We have to learn to make sacrifices of good things that we want in favor of what is better for us and our children.

And we should remember that our lives are going to be different from we expect, and instead of worrying about having it all, we should worry about having the right thing for us.

Right now, I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’m starting to homeschool my kids. I didn’t choose homeschooling as much as it was simply the right thing to do. With all four kids at home, I don’t have as much time to do some of my own projects. I’m also planning on going back to school in the fall. I don’t know how it will all work out. That’s okay. I’ll figure it out.

I do know that when I trust in what is right for me and my family, things will be all right.

It’s not going to be perfect and we’ll have horrible days and really good days. But we just keep trying.