Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Regrets and Memories

Camden missed the bus today. As I drove him to school, something about the morning- the fall colors, the cool temperature, the smells- took me back to my junior year of high school in Maryland. It's a time in my life that I don't often think of so I was taken back at the flood of thoughts.

Even though I was 15 going on 16 at the time, I don't remember much about Maryland itself. For some reason my mind has blocked out most of the memories of that year and all I have are sketchy flashes of people and places.

My freshman and sophomore years had been in Bogotá, Colombia. I loved it there- the people, my school, the parties. I had lots of friends and had learned to love everything about the Colombian culture. Those were the golden years of my adolesence and I have an abundance of intricate, happy and detailed memories from those two years. Watching Bogotá get smaller and smaller out the airplane window as we flew away was one of the most painful experiences I can remember as a teen. I had left behind the life I thought I wanted to continue living forever.

Moving to Maryland was a culture shock, to put it mildly. Everything felt so completely different and I felt invisible in a sea of thousands of students. I felt there was no one at school I could relate to and as a result ate lunch alone every day in the library. I had labeled myself an outcast and a loser.

Now as a nurse and having learned about and having been exposed to patients with depression, I can see in retrospect that I was in deep depression. Even though I can't remember many of the physcial aspects of Maryland, I clearly remember many of the self-loathing and self-destructive thoughts I had and repeated to myself, like a broken record.

Also in retrospect, I can see that many of the circumstances that I believed were a reality were in fact exaggerated and exacerbated by my own selfishness and unwillingness to see or reach outside myself. My wallowing in self-pity turned to full-scale depression because I did nothing to help myself out of my dark hole. It was much easier to ride on the wave of self-pity than it was to try to make friends and get involved.

Eventually I allowed myself to slowly climb out of that dark hole. I remember my parents being worried sick about me and doing everything they could think of to try to help. I remember my brother, who didn't have it easy at school either, taking me under his wing and including me in everything that he did.

It's interesting how despite the vague, dark memories of those days, I learned so much about myself during that time.

I learned that I couldn't allow circumstances, no matter how bad I thought they were, to dictate my attitude.

I learned that a friendly face can sometimes come from the most unexpected places. Ironically, the "gothic" kids at school, with the black hair, black eyeliner and fingernail polish, piercings in unthinkable places and long trench coats were some of the kindest and least judgemental at school.

I learned that friends come and go (and in my case, this was very often) but that my family would always be there for me.

I began my slow journey of caring less what others thought of me and, and caring more what I thought of myself.

I learned the importance of turning to my church family for support. I made some amazing friends with some of the youth in our ward.

By my senior year, my family moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I had begun to open my shell a little, but still remained mostly detached. The reopening process has taken years.

I wish I could go back through time and talk to my 15 year old self. I would tell myself that these are times that will help define and mold me for the rest of me life. I wish I could tell myself how much I would regret my selfishness and experiences lost. I wish I could have told myself that people don't judge and think about you as much as you think they do. Most people are too worried about themselves and what others think of them. I wish I could have told myself to open my eyes to the people around me that love me and to just be present, instead of mourning the past.

As hard as it is to have those regrets, I'm glad they're there. There's a reason we were given a selectively vivid memory. My regrets about the past blaze brightly in my memory. But hopefully it's so that I will only make those mistakes once and that sharing them with my children will help deter them from making the same mistakes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Layton Marathon

The pictures come from the race photographer's website. They're pretty small but you get the idea.

Luke ran beside me the last quarter of a mile. Please excuse my poor knock-kneed, pigeon-toed gait. I was tired.

My cute little Camden holding up the sign for us as we approached the finish line.

Percy also came to cheer us on at the finish line.

A couple of weeks ago, Julie and I completed the Layton marathon. We had ran the Mesa Falls half marathon together about a month prior. After finishing the half marathon, I pointed out that the training required to complete a full marathon was only about 4 weeks beyond the training needed to complete a half. The training it takes to get to 13 miles is much harder and longer than the training required to double the mileage. I sounds crazy but it's true. We both figured, "What the heck? Why not? We're not getting any younger." So we signed up for the Layton marathon.

I travelled to Utah the night before with the kids and we stayed at Julie's parents house in Morgan. Julie's mom graciously watched the kids for me while we ran and even brought them to the finish line with posters to cheer us on. Dennis wasn't able to come because he had a wood-cutting campout he had been committed to for almost a year and he didn't feel it would be right to back out of it.

The run was fun and beautiful. We talked most of the way except for the last few miles. By then, I don't think either of us felt like we could do anything other than put one foot in front of the other. We both agreed that the last 3 miles of the race seemed longer than the first 13. They were never-ending and excruciating, to say the least.

It was nice to have someone else to run with and to take it easy for a change. Usually when I run races, I compete against myself and just about kill myself trying to beat my past times. We definitely didn't beat any personal bests, but the upside was that the recovery was much, much easier and the race itself was much more enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chilean Miners

There are times when my heart is so filled with joy for the human experience. We are too often privy to Satan's dark world. I think it leaves our view of life and other people marred and cynical. But then there are times when our Heavenly Father opens a little window into His world and we are able to behold the glory, beauty, and thrill of His plan.

Last night I had one such experience. As many others throughout the world, I've been captivated by the story of the Chilean miners. Every time I saw a news story on it, I had to read it. I can't describe the intense thrill of happiness I felt as I saw the first one pulled from the mine and saw his young son, face wet with tears, run to embrace him. I thought to myself, "This is the Lord's hand, and I am privileged to be witnessing it on live TV."

The first time I saw the hand-written note returning up with the probe, telling the rescuers on the surface that all 33 miners were alive and well after 17 days of being presumed dead, I felt this story belonged to me as well as I recognized the familiar hand-writting, so typical of the Chilean people.
Then at approximately 1:25am this morning, my phone rang. It was a sweet lady that I used to work with at the hospital. When she heard my sleepy voice, she apologized for waking me up but then said she couldn't contain her excitement and had to call me. In Spanish, with her voice shaky and crying, she told me she had been watching the rescue on TV and had been thinking of me. She wanted me to know that she too had been praying for the miners and that the sight of seeing the children greet their parents after so many days of uncertainty and fear had left her so filled with joy that she had to share it with me. I thanked her and assured her that I was glad she called. She too had seen and felt what I had.

It's a complicated and wonderful thing to have split allegiances to the United States and to Chile. My mother is Chilean and my father from Idaho. We lived in Chile for 4 years growing up and we have returned many times since then to visit family. My feelings of patriotism are both for the American and Chilean flag. What a glorious way to highlight the beauty of the Chilean people.
My favorite picture that emerged after the earthquake in February

Here is a short slide-show I made for my parents earlier this year. It compares the Idaho and Chilean cultures, MY two cultures, side by side. What a swell of national pride!

Patria from Rita Merrick on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Great Expectations

I've been debating quite a bit lately whether or not I should post this. Blogs are really like a diary, published to the world. My hope in this is that as my children pass through trials throughout their life, that they will find that their mother went through similar life experiences and struggled with many of the same things that they will undoubtedly struggle with. Despite the billions of people throughout the world and throughout history, I think our human experiences are more similar than we think, regardless of whether we live in Idaho or Africa. With countless variables in the mix, of course, but at their core, very similar.

I've felt lately like the proverbial camel, with the pieces of straw slowly mounting on it's back. These pieces of straw being different expectations that have been in place either since birth, or that have mounted bit by bit with the birth of each child, each new calling in the church, each new friendship that is formed, etc. Some of the expectations are almost non-detectable and live so deeply in our subconscious that we scarcely realize they're there until we are on the brink of our breaking point.

Where the camel's back was eventually broken by that one last piece of straw, I've recently felt like whirling around and saying, "I'll be da**** if you think you're going to place one more piece of straw on my back!"

Part of me wants to be that good girl that meekly accepts each piece of straw, submitting myself to the will of those around me to keep the peace and avoid uncomfortable confrontation. But I've found myself beginning to resent each and every expectation, be it reasonable or not, because of the cumulative weight of it all. I find myself thinking how nice it would be to "check out" for a while and go live as a hermit, coming back only when all the straw has blown off and my back has fully recovered. I find myself resenting those who expect the least of me and love me the most while trying to appease those that are in the reverse.

As liberating as it is to blow off some steam and let the everyone know how overburdened I feel, it does me no good to yell into the wind. Besides, don't most mothers feel this way? As I said before, this is by no means a new human experience. Far too common, in fact.

I've been working lately on snipping those ties of expectations that have left me feeling like I'm in a posey restraint. Like how I think my relationship with my parents, in-laws, siblings and friends should play out in an ideal world. How I think I should be respected by my children. What I think my church community and neighbors expect of me. It's easy to get swallowed up and lose youreself in trying to play out the expectations others hold for you. The more expectations, the greater the disappointment that will inevitably come be it to you or to them.

Yes, I will probably tick some people off. A lot of them actually, and people and causes that I respect. But that's okay. I won't say "To hell with all of my responsibilities," but I know I'm at a point where I need to set some boundaries and reestablish some priorities. The greatest expectations that I hold for myself are to God, Dennis, and my children. The rest... well they may need to go find themselves a new camel.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Latest update

Have I ever mentioned how amazing Dennis is? Well in case I haven't, here's the proof. He has been slaving away for the past couple of weeks working on retiling our entry way and kitchen. At one point, he had been awake and working on it for 37 hours straight. He works harder than anyone I've ever met. Last night he was pointing all the mistakes and flaws out to me and I had to stop him and say, "Dennis, stop! It's beautiful! Don't worry about it!" The flooring that had been put in when our house was built was cracking in some places and had a few chips where the kids had dropped things over the years. It was looking pretty rough and tough.

He also put in this gas fireplace (the logs for the inside and the front cover are on their way) while I was away for a girl's weekend with my mom and sisters in Park City. Our house is still in a bit of disaray (as you can see with the crowded furniture around the fireplace) while we're putting the finishing touches on everything but it's fun and exciting to see these new changes coming about. The living room is the coldest room in the house in the winter so I'm excited to have some warmth in there when the cold weather comes around!

He's amazing. Enough said.

In some other exciting news, Luke recently started preschool. He loves it. He is attending as a typical peer at a special preschool for children with a wide range of disabilities from mild to severe. A school bus even comes to pick him up at the front door! He is quite a social little bug. For the past few weeks since Camden started school, he has been wandering around the house like a little lost puppy without his best friend around to play with. I'm grateful for this opportunity to keep him busy!

Camden is attending a dual language school and is learning Spanish and English simultaneously. I love to hear him learning to speak Spanish. When he's doing his homework, it's fascinating to see his little mind switch from English to Spanish and then back again depending on what task he has to complete. It's surprising how much he understands. I've been to the school to volunteer and I'm amazed at how all of the English speaking children will jump up and follow the teacher's directions as she gives them in Spanish. It's remarkable how quickly they learn.

Last night he was feeling a little emotional, angry and quite teary. I asked him if he would ride his bike alongside me while I went for a jog. We were only gone for about 30 minutes but he talked nearly the whole way, only pausing when I would ask him questions about what he was saying. He talked about everything and anything. When we got home he was perfectly happy again and back to his sweet, affectionate self. My little Camden has such a special spirit. I love to see him growing into a young man. And it's happening so quickly.