17 July 2014

Remembering too much

I recently told a friend that sometimes I think I might remember too much.

This is a complicated statement, so let me briefly try to explain.

Part of it is that I remember more content than the average person. Not always, of course, but often. There is typically more substance to things that I remember than other people remember from the same experience. If I remember it at all, I often remember it very vividly.

On the same note, part of it is that I remember the emotions related to the experience, which are sometimes fantastic and sometimes harrowing.

An entirely different part of it, though, is that I spend a lot of time remembering. Some of that is just because when I have down time and can't read a book or play a game (for example, at work or in the car), I remember. Another reason is that I still have such strong emotions about events and periods in my past. And I guess probably the biggest reason right now is that I have very few specific hopes or plans for my future. I'm not depressed. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not hopeless about my future. I just tend not to really think about it, shrug it off. God's got this. That's good enough for me.

So I remember a lot, a lot of the time. I went through some pretty great and some pretty hurtful times in my youth, and I had some very beautiful and very painful relationships. I think about them. I wouldn't say I'm entrenched in the past or so nostalgic I can't enjoy the present. But I do remember a lot. (Did I already mention that?)

It came up because talking to this particular friend brought up all sorts of memories from my childhood in Nigeria, and I started just spouting off all these images. I don't often get a chance to wax eloquent about my young years. And I am full to bursting with memories. I told her it's hard to blog about anything besides my past. If I thought others would be willing to read it, I would choose to write about events or images from my past (mostly my childhood & adolescence but also my young adult years) 90% of the time.

So I think I remember too much--the bad and the good, and more often than is perhaps "normal." What does one do with all these memories?

14 July 2014

Missing summer

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my job? The people are incredibly funny and enjoyable to work with--considerate and kind yet playful. I love working with medical students and doctors, too, and I like the work itself for the most part. And of course it's calming many days to be with other grown-ups all day instead of with my kids. I love my darlings, but they sure can drive me bonkers. So yes, I love my job.

Sometimes, though, and especially this summer, I have really missed being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). It's obviously not possible right now and likely will never be possible again. This is my new reality. I am trying my best to adjust and be joyful, but at times, I grieve for the things I'm missing:

  • my kids' firsts--first roller-skating, first boat ride, first passing a swim test...
  • lots of hugs from Anna
  • reading books with Timothy
  • grocery shopping in the middle of a weekday
  • taking the kids to the park
  • picking Timothy up from school and hearing all about his day when it's fresh in his mind
  • feeling like I have time to plan meals and cook
There are lots of others, but those are some that came to mind. But there are two things I miss most right now.

One is being able to enjoy summer. To me that doesn't necessarily mean swimming and enjoying the sunshine. I'm not an outdoors person really, although I do love swimming. I don't like hot weather, and I hate humidity. But summer is so much more than that. It's vacation. It's taking the kids to the beach. It's enjoying short trips to visit friends and family. It's letting the kids sleep in and enjoy all the things they don't get to do during the year. My kids aren't getting a real summer this year. They're stuck in day care all day during the week, and on the weekend, we have to run errands because my only free time is on the weekend. I'm exhausted all the time, and though I try to plan fun things for the kids, things happen, and we don't always get to enjoy time together. 

We've totally lost summer. My heart breaks inside when I hear all the SAHMs at church talk about play dates and trips to this and that fun activity.

...which leads me to the second thing I miss most right now, and that is girl time with other moms. I'm not talking about going out for dinner or drinks. I'm talking about play dates, sitting around chatting about life, enjoying other mom company while the kids play. That has been so hard to lose. I already felt terribly lonely, but now that it's summer and all the kids are playing together, I ache for that mommy time. Yes, theoretically, I could try to plan something. But all the other moms need their family time with the dads in their lives, which is evenings and weekends. I can't ask my SAHM friends to give that up just to chat with me. Besides, evenings get into suppertimes and bedtimes, even aside from dad-time. I see my mommy friends at church on Sundays and (usually, though not this month) at home group on Thursdays, but it's not mommy time. And I don't usually see them or even talk to them at all otherwise. 

It was hard being a SAHM sometimes, and I felt exhausted and frustrated with discipline, etc. I felt lonely. But I was getting at least the peripheral social time that I needed and so felt much more able to give to my kids the time they needed. When I am empty, both emotionally and spiritually, how can I possibly give to my children?

Oh! to have a summer full of beach time, play dates, and a Beth Moore study!

08 July 2014

Hearing the call... or not

When I was in high school and college, I was sure that God wanted me to return to Africa someday as a missionary or human rights worker. I was positive. The whole time I was in college, I longed to go home. I spent eight weeks in southeast Asia in 2001 and missed a lot of the joy, I think, because I wanted to go to Africa instead. I knew I didn't belong in Asia. I belonged in West Africa.

And yet each day I grew more and more used to the cushy American life, used to being able to hop in my car and drive pretty much anywhere. I got used to not waiting in a queue to pump my gas, to being able to buy everything I needed on a shopping trip in only one store, to hot water and fast Internet, to wearing whatever I wanted to wear even if it meant pants or--God forbid--shorts. I got used to blending in.

Moving back to Nigeria as an adult was hard. Even with my parents there, it was more challenging than I'd expected. I missed things about the U.S. I missed my independence and missed fitting in. I didn't have the energy or desire to learn the languages I'd had no interest in learning as a child, and I felt judged and reproved for not trying harder to fit in.

I didn't belong.

And maybe I'll never belong anywhere, but it begs the question, Did I get it wrong? Did I misunderstand my "calling"? Or did I not have a calling at all? Did I just make it up because I longed for home, longed for a past to which I could not return?

I always thought I was called to international missions, but I don't think so anymore. Do I still have a call?

Or is the idea of a call really just a myth anyway--just a spiritualization of a person's decision to do whatever he wants to do?

The trite answer for me is that right now God has called me to be a mother and to do whatever is best for my children. But what about the bigger picture? Or is there is no bigger picture?