It takes one kind of courage to look straight at your life, compare where you are to where you want to be, and then dive into making your life the one you want to live.
It is another kind of courage (more in line with General Sherman’s definition) that has us look straight at the cost of something, and choose it anyway.
Both have been coming into play in this “year of courage” (as I labeled 2013).
I have had a string of successes and delights this spring.
- I adopted a dog that was just what I wanted (still learning how to train him ;])
- We had a family vacation in Hawaii that was almost completely stress-free and got me far enough into my novel that the momentum meant something.
- I finished my first 10 speeches to achieve my “competent communicator” award in Toastmasters
- I finished my novel last week, and am now letting my story-brain rest, working on non-fiction writing instead (blog, WynMag).
- I’m wrapping up a last few editing of WynMag projects and the first issue will go live soon. (And I’m ahead on my submissions for the next issue).
- I’ve got the children signed up in a homeschooling program for next year (that we will actually start this summer), so that we have more financial flexibility to explore and experiment with curricula to find what will work best for our family.
- We’ve sold the rabbits (most of them, anyway), bringing us down to pet-levels.
- Our second round of baby goats is due this week (and we know better what to DO this time, so the enjoyment level will be even higher).
- The children will complete their first year of “away school” next week, and I won’t have to be the bad-guy, sending them on with empty hopes that people might change, and the slightly less-empty hope that there’s not many days left.
These are all tied, in my mind, to the first type of courage.
Now comes the second kind.
In the process of getting healthy on a mental/emotional level, I’ve come to recognize a series of needs that I must not just balance or juggle, but meet.
- Right eating
These are the non-negotiable for internal stability.
But having those covered allows me to see there’s a second tier that really enhances the first tier.
- Clean Space
- Calm companions
- Achievable, completable goals
- Spiritual pursuit (singular)
I suppose having spiritual pursuit in the second category is going to look bad to some people, but it’s true. Until I am stable physically and mentally, asking the hard questions and pushing in any realm that has Deep Meaning is simply asking too much.
One of my biggest problems, all through my mothering journey (I can’t remember much thinking about it before then), was an image of a robot changing its own batteries. That’s how I saw “self-care”.
Even assuming this robot was designed in a way that allowed it to unattach and reattach its source of power, this seemed like a painfully pointless way to live.
Even caring for my family seemed like an extension of this, because the family, on its own level, is a single organism, and what’s the value (I asked in the first place) of merely perpetuating an internal (perpetual) motion?
Can we say existential depression?
One of the “rules” (or offer me another word) of combating existential depression is to infuse things with meaning. ExDe is, at its core, a loss of motivation or impetus stemming from a loss of meaning.
So I back up.
I look at my identity.
I look at my own value.
There’s a great phrase in book I once read about Co-dependancy. The author speaks of the anticipation and excitement we have about a new baby. And what did this baby do to be the center of this excitement!?
She was BORN!
Something she had no control over. Something she herself didn’t do at all.
And that should be the picture of our value disconnected from our doing.
Sure we might be more-useful to some people by what we can do for them, but that just makes them evaluators, not arbiters.
This is the mental track I follow to work up to this truth: I need to take care of myself.
Other people get there faster and easier. Bully for you.
My accomplishments and milestones mean a great deal to me: they are signposts the show I’m living the way I want to live. But if fighting depression has driven anything home to me, it’s that there really is a baseline of work that is all. about. me.
Few people object to the concept of need when it comes to sleep. Fewer still object to food.
I posit (and this is kind-of the point of my first Feature Article in Wyn) that there are other needs.
There’s actually a part of me that, even after I recognized the needs, I felt ashamed of them. Not because they emphasized my weakness (I was so over needing to be “strong” all the time), but because I knew people who didn’t have access or opportunity to meet those needs.
I was pained by the deep injustice of it.
Then a woman told me the story of how her anorexia and depression was seeded by the standard parental admonition to “Eat, because there are children in Africa who don’t have food.”
Her 8-year-old sense of justice, unable to do anything for the starving children, decided that she should just stop eating, too.
There are still children who don’t have food. Whole communities that don’t have safe water.
This doesn’t change their needs or mine. And my ignoring those needs won’t make things better for either of us.
So it comes back again to making meaning.
This is tacky in some circles, because some things are just supposed to be meaningful. But you still have to believe it to be true before it’s any use against ExDe.
So this second kind of courage comes into play now:
I have only named and begun to learn to meet these needs of mine since the children went off to Away-School.
I have not yet carried the full weight of all our needs, so I have no precedent or proof that I can.
Part of The-Life-I-Want-To-Live involves having my children around me and sharing life together. But their time Away has severely depleted them, and if there is a fear fighting for a foothold in my soul it’s that I’m not going to be enough (that old dragon) to satisfy all of them and continue to care for me.
General Sherman said courage involves a full awareness of the risk involved, and a willingness to endure that risk.
My first kind of courage didn’t demand so much, because all I had to lose was my fear. The risk, functionally, was minimal.
The risk is huge: Depression is a dragon ready to eat me. I’ve watched it reaching for my girls.
I don’t like putting things in terms of a life-and-death struggle.
But when you see it that way it sometimes makes other things easier to prioritize.