Monday, December 15, 2008

I Get So Emotional

I was a very emotional teenager. Which statement, no doubt, is ridiculously redundant if you were ever a teenage girl yourself.

This extreme emotion lasted a long time. Even through my twenties as I served a mission, finished school, taught, married, moved, had children. . . . each change seemed to bring on such strong roller-coaster emotions that I often despaired of ever really feeling like I'd arrived in a place (or with a self) I was comfortable with.

Hitting thirty was a little overwhelming for me, but my mother kept telling me that her 30's were her best decade. I soon learned what she meant: my life didn't really stabilize, but my approach to it did. Maybe it is being enough years away from high school that only a few choice memories remain. Maybe it is nearly ten years in a marriage that finally gives me a sense of security. Maybe I have had enough of a taste of trials and resolution to trust the Lord better. Maybe my need to please others has finally taken a backseat to the need to please myself. I don't know. But the few years I have attained have given me perspective and understanding I never had a decade ago.

And then a day like yesterday comes along.

My emotional range yesterday made multiple personality disorder look tame: foolish, tired, edgy, diligent, responsible, impatient, triumphant, harried, frustrated, headachey, adored, pious, bored, forgetful, uplifted, covetous, judgemental, incredulous, shocked, angry, (the last three all from Relief Society, but that is a story best left untold!), loving, grateful, unctuous, apologetic, verbose, critical, indignant, guilty, passionate, repentant, generous, prideful, annoyed, grouchy, punctual, gregarious, intolerant, irate, punishing, conciliatory, resigned, committed, snarly . . . .

Maybe if I took the time to analyze each day for its emotions, I'd find similar results. Or maybe yesterday was especially extreme. It sure felt that way. I hit my knees with the sincerest prayer I've said in a long time last night.

This morning, I delivered papers in a snow storm. While I'm glad this is not a daily event, I was grateful for it this morning. The lonely, quiet, whiteness gave me a lot of space in which to reflect. During a frustrating moment with my 7 year-old last night, I told him that the best part of a new day is that we got to try again. We get to start over without mistakes. This thought seemed to cheer him, as it has me many times, enormously. I thought of this mistake-free day idea a lot as I looked at the lovely, blank, bright snow.

It occurred to me that I don't want to be UN-emotional, or even mellow. I like feeling things deeply. But where I seem to get into trouble, is that all of my emotions are strong. The snow made me think of the Savior and his purity. It made me think that my strongest emotions need to be much more like the Christ-like attributes we bring up in every Sunday School lesson--charity, loyalty, faith, commitment, integrity, purpose, goodness, and the like. On the other hand, my natural-man emotions need to be tempered. It is these emotions that lead to stupid actions, guilty feelings and self-loathing.

As I ran from house to house, I thought of two ways I want to work on making myself a person who listens more and judges less: The first is that I just need to shut my mouth. Not ALWAYS, but maybe 50% of the time when I think I should speak: instead should just nod my head and listen. I also need to focus on being more grateful. If I focus on what is good, maybe I won't have the time to get thinking about all that is wrong with everything. And everyone.

These thoughts came to me, making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside despite the cold and wet. Then my car wouldn't start. Five a.m. Six inches of snow. Running nearly 30 minutes late on my papers. Parked practically in the middle of the road. Twenty-five degrees. Five miles from home. AND MY CAR WOULDN'T START.

I called Plantboy and gave him directions to my stranded car and he agreed to be out the door and on his way. I sat for a moment in the rapidly cooling car and did the one thing I could do. I gathered the biggest armful of papers that I could and a clip of paper bags and kept delivering papers. I might have been a damsel in distress, but the last thing I was going to do was sit around and WAIT to be rescued.

Instead of thinking about how miserable I was in the steadily picking up snow and the wind, I tried to remember what I had just been thinking about. Having no opportunity to practice shutting my mouth around other people, I decided to be grateful. Here was the mantra:

Grateful that it is Monday and the papers are small.
Grateful that my parents are still in town so Plantboy can leave the house.
Grateful that my feet are dry.
Grateful that I am on the second half of my route so that the houses are closer together.
Grateful for the additional exercise the running in the snow offers.
Grateful that my cold is almost cleared up.
Grateful that I didn't get the nasty cough with my cold.
Grateful for snow that will make people more forgiving (or later to sleep) when their papers are late.
Grateful for the quiet.
Grateful for the beauty.
Grateful for imagination that keeps me company every morning at 3:30.
Grateful that Plantboy happened to see me just as I delivered the last paper I'd been able to carry and I could ride the six blocks back to the car instead of jog . . .

Plantboy started the car with no trouble.

I started to cry.

I'm grateful for a husband who doesn't berate, criticize or belittle when I do something dumb: he just gave me a hug and created a hokey explanation for my scientific mind about why the car would suddenly start for him. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful.

But I still cried and felt very sorry for myself and very stupid. Maybe I will have to start my exercise in building Christlike attributes/more tempered emotions TOMORROW.


Suburban Hippie said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one ;)

Slyck and Slim said...

I LOVED this post because it reveals how you constantly try to reign in all that spunk and fire that I know Plantboy loves about you. How nice that you have a hubby that is so patient. I kind of envy your paper job in the fact that it gives you alot of time for introspection. I'm impressed that you found so much to be grateful about given the circumstances. And I'm really glad that you guys don't have the expense of a car repair at this time of year! :)

Brian and Courtni said...

My blog entries are never thought provoking...good message. Especially about the "new day." Hope the rest of the week is uneventful :-)

And by the way, things ALWAYS work for Brian after they wouldn't work for me. I think he thinks I make things up, but it's true.

EmAndTrev said...

You know, I am super impressed by both your post and your response to this situation! I am positive I would have gone all to pieces and don't blame you one bit for feeling sorry for yourself. We're only human. For me, sometimes "living in the now" means looking forward to tomorrow. :)

Doreen said...

I have a similar post sitting in my head, waiting to be written. Just need to find the time to write it... As far as snow storms and broken down cars, I think I would have cried the second the car wouldn't start. Hope you have a better (less eventful?) day today!

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

How ironic that you write this post the same week I've been feeling like a critical, ungrateful wretch who needs a serious change in perspective. Hopefully I can vicariously use your snowstorm to snap out of this, rather than getting caught in one of my own.

Btw, I love that you used unctuous in context. :)

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I had to think about unctuous. It was exactly the right word. The context was in speaking with a woman I visit teach whom I have tried desperately for months to get to know or even get into see. She is active, just highly uninterested in me. I took a plate of goodies to her house in an ice storm on Tuesday. She was on the phone and didn't even acknowledge the plate with a head nod as she shut the door. Maybe I should be less unctuous and more . . . well . . . invisible.

Suburban Hippie said...

Maybe you should tell the VT coordinator that the relationship isn't working. Sometimes these things are a lesson in speaking up. If she really feels that way about you it would be better for both of you if you were reassigned. Some other sister is probably desperately in need of a VT like you.

Harding Family said...

Thank you for sharing...we ALL have those days, Nan! Correction: ALL MOMS have those days. You are not alone!!!! I loved your 'grateful' self-talk...that's what I have to do for myself when I'm in those situations, too.