I have this friend.
She graduated the same year I did. She went to college like I did.
I graduated with an Associate of the Arts degree. My new husband graduated with me. We walked side-by-side clad in cap and gown. We didn't know it at the time, but we had a little one brewing inside me.
My friend also graduated with an Associate of the Something degree. Then she graduated with a Bachelor degree. Then she moved to New York and worked as a journalist.
Then she moved home and was paid to write and do writingish things.
I had another child (bringing the grand total to two).
We have similar interests, similar tastes, and we can carry on a conversation for hours if we felt so inclined (or the children would let us).
I enjoyed watching her mother her first child. I was even more ecstatic when she told me she was expecting her second.
We are presently pregnant together.
I told her about my husband's addiction. It all came spilling out one day, and she listened so lovingly and well. She continued to listen for hours and months afterward as I played the victim and blamed and found not a single ray of sunshine in my life.
She confessed that she and her husband have a great marriage -no deep problems to speak of. He cooks, he cleans, he works, he supports her in her aspirations and dreams. They read poetry by candlelight and they enjoy delving into cultures of all kinds together. They're a perfect team.
Yesterday, I missed her. I texted her.
She texted back.
She's studying for her GRE. She's going to start the processes of getting her Master's degree.
I texted back my applause and I called her a go-getter, ever grateful that I she couldn't sense the fact that I was crying.
I couldn't even figure WHY I was crying -what did it matter? My best friend in the entire world just graduated with her Master's degree a few months ago and I was nothing but proud! I was excited for her -genuinely applauded her, praised her and "liked" every single graduation-related photo she posted on facebook.
WHY did I burst into tears? I couldn't figure myself out at all. Minutes later, my phone rang. It was my OB's office calling to let me know I had failed my first glucose test and would have to come in for the yucky 3-hour one.
And I cried some more.
I sat myself down to try and figure out what in the HECK was going on with me. It didn't take me long to realize it.
My journalist friend has lived and done so many things I've only dreamed of. And now she's going on to get a Master's degree. It's incredible.
I can't even get a Bachelor degree right now. Between my pregnancy (and impending newborn) and my calling (Primary President) and my two kids and that little thing I'm grappling with called My Husband's Porn Addiction... I can't handle one more thing. I can't. I would crack.
I'm jealous of her marriage, and I resented my husband for a good hour over it.
I resented my co-dependency and all the years I lost LOSING myself in his stuff! I policed three years of my life away!
What could those years have been for me? Where could I have gone? What could I have done? What opportunities did I miss because I thought I was doing my SAVING duty to husband?
That's why I was crying. For the first time, I realized that I was so sucked into all this porn crap that I stopped really and truly living. And I'm angry. I'm mad about that. I'm mad at myself for allowing it to happen. I'm mad at my husband.
It's pointless anger -as most anger is. There's no point in worrying about "What Might Have Been."
What Might Have Been is a dangerous, dangerous island.
But between THAT and the failed glucose test and the fact that my children had fought with me for over 7 hours (7 and a half, actually. But who's keeping track?) because their room wasn't clean... I cried. And when my husband came home from work, he stayed clean away from me.
When it came time to run to the store, he said, "You're grouchy. Go alone. Take a break. Here's gas money. Here's chocolate money."
And I bawled into his shirt for a good twenty minutes.
How incredibly grateful I am for him.
I came back two hours later to sleeping children, dinner, and a movie (comedy. I needed comedy).
As I waited for the movie to start, I talked about everything I'd been crying over. I asked my husband's opinion on it. Despite his addiction, he's blessed with remarkably good sense. He's very down to earth. I'm very not.
I value his level head.
"Don't let it bother you. It won't make any difference to worry about it, so don't," he said.
He makes the funniest jokes.
Only he wasn't kidding. I didn't bother telling him how impossible it was for me to just NOT worry about it -to just let it go.
"I'll pray about it," I shrugged.
"Or don't," he shrugged back, "You can't give stuff like that more credit than it deserves."
"Until I work it all out in my mind, I will," I said. And then we watched a movie.
And then my kids puked all night.
Today I went to a funeral for a prominent member of our small community.
He wasn't suit-and-slick hair prominent. He wasn't wealthy prominent.
He was giving. And he wore overalls a lot.
He laughed a lot and loved a lot and touched so many lives and was such a solid rock in our little town that when he died we all just sort of rocked back on our heels and wondered how on earth life would ever be the same. It won't -not really. Life won't be BAD, but without him... it just won't feel right for a good long while.
I listened to his children -stalwart men and women who were a big part of The Village that Raised Me -turn into children themselves as they cried at the pulpit.
"I love you, Dad," they said.
Tears once again sprung to my eyes... I reached up and put my hand on the back of the man next to me: my own father.
Then one of the sons got up and talked about the Savior. He talked about service -about who is greater than who and what and where and all that. And THEREIN was my answer.
I'm not here to get a degree. I can, if I want to. I have my agency.
Have I missed out on opportunities? Yeah, I'm sure I have. Does that really suck? Well, yeah.
BUT on the flip side, I have a good and great life -a simple life. I have gained so much from my Policing Years that I have NEW and DIFFERENT opportunities to serve and share and love. And I've learned so very much about the gratifying difference that can be felt between self-service and service-service.
I will still have days where I feel less-than. I will still have days where I feel angry.
When my friend graduates with her degree and begins a lofty writing career, I'll probably be up to my elbows in my pantry.
And that will be okay -so long as I know for a surety that In The Pantry is where the Lord would have me be.
Because if I've learned one thing from all this porn addiction frenzied MADNESS... it's that if you rely on the arm of Jehovah and put yourself on the path he'd like you to be on, you WILL find true JOY.
True joy doesn't mean every day will be happy. You're going to have hard days. But when you're in tune with the Spirit, you can always have joy.
Yesterday was awful. I failed in so many ways, but today it all came around at a funeral.
I sat next to my earthly father who smells like Stetson and looks so handsome in his nice Western suit... he always wears his grandfather's bolo ties on special occasions (like Sundays and funerals) and I was overcome with gratitude for a GOOD, solid DAD.
He's a rock.
I have a rock on earth, and I have an Immovable Mountain of a Father on high.
As I listened to a son, grieving his Rock on Earth, speak of greatness and service as one in the same, I felt My Mountain on High tap my on the head.
"There's your answer," He said, "There it is."
And then I humbly bowed my head and said to Him, "Give me opportunities to do Thy work... let me be a tool."
Soon after that I reached over to my Dad and scratched his back... just because I could -because he was there. As I left the church I did the same to my Grandpa. I reached over and rubbed his back that doesn't stand quite as straight as it used to.
I did it because I could.
Because he's here.
Tonight, I'll go see Grandpa again. I can't not. Because the man who died -the great, wonderous man who survived being a POW in WWII was a grandfather to my best friend in the entire world. She can't hug her grandpa tonight, but I can hug mine. So I will.
Grandpa didn't go on a mission. He didn't serve in a war. He stayed home and worked the family farm so his brothers might have those chances. And who do I look to as the greatest of the greats of men?
My quiet, hunched cowboy grandpa. I love him dearly. Self-serving? Never.
My best friend -my dear friend who lost her own grandfather -has her Master's degree. No children yet -but soon. Never once have I seen her place herself above anyone else. Never once have I seen her seek praise -to go after worldly ambition.
Last year, she came to visit with me during a holiday break. We spent hours giggling and laughing and talking about our crushes in junior high.
"What's your calling now?" I asked after a few hours of visiting, feeling like maybe we ought to know what the other had actually been doing.
"Stake Relief Society President," I could tell by the way she said it that she didn't WANT to say it at all.
"That's a GROWN UP PERSON calling!" I couldn't help but say.
"I know," she nodded, "But it isn't too bad. I actually don't have to do anything. The Lord makes all the decisions and I just tell my counselors what to do."
And we laughed some more because of all the people on earth who can make me really pee my pants: SHE is number one.
My other friend -my journalist friend -she loves attention and notice and praise. She wants to be applauded, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Perhaps the reason I burst into tears was that I see those same qualities in myself, but I hate that about me.
I want to be like my grandpa -like my best friend.
My recovery and the 12-step program is teaching me how to attain humility.
So have I ever really missed out on opportunities? Not the ones that truly matter to me. In fifty years, I won't give a rat's you-know-what about a dusty degree on a shelf because I know that for ME (this doesn't apply to everyone, I know) it will simply represent a few grueling years where I ignored my young children and was a monster to live with.
My degree-getting days may come later -they may not. These days are not my degree-getting days.
It doesn't matter.
In Faith, I'll Rely On the Arm of Jehovah.
This post has been so long, so wordy, and so so so long. But it feels so good to just SPLAT it all out. If you actually read through the entire thing, you deserve a batch of my mom's cookies. And they're the best. No foolin'.