How I can’t turn it off

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I use to reserve a 3 AM spot every six months or so for lying awake and feeling intense emotion—as all emotion is at 3 AM. Usually this centered around times like starting a new job, navigating a rocky relationship, moving across the country, etc.

These days I fill that 3 AM slot so often that I overflow into other moments during the day.

I’m that crazy lady you see in the corner of the coffee shop crying into her novel. The one with spit up on her shoulder and a cup of earl grey tea.

I wrote about how I was prepared—how parenting was less overwhelming when I looked at it as just another adventure that I had the skills to tackle. That knowledge was freeing for me. Once I got it from my head to my anxious heart.

Yet parenthood still felt so much bigger, so much wilder, so much MORE than I anticipated.

Over the last 8 months I have realized there is one very stark and frightening difference between today and my life up to this point.

I can’t turn the emotion off.

I can’t zone out for a few weeks until I recover.

I can’t detach mentally and physically from the present.

I can’t escape ALL OF THE FEELINGS.

This ability was a valuable tool in some of the intense periods of my life. I’m not talking about an unhealthy detachment because of trauma or discontentment.Anyone who has faced depression, periods of intense academic study, a high intensity job, years on the mission field, or counselling hurting people understands this skill intimately.

You can’t deeply feel everything all the time or you will become burnt out and therefore more useless than if you take a mental break.

Sometimes Jim Elliot’s famous words “Wherever you are, be all there”, should be applied,

“Be as much there as you possibly can.”

Here is the thing.

Being a parent does not allow that.

Here is a human being who belongs totally and completely to you and it totally and completely dependent on you for physical, mental, and spiritual health. And not only can you not stop loving or caring for them altogether, you can’t lessen the love or decrease the caring even if you tried.  You are attached to every part of them, whether you like it or not.

I can’t emotionally distance myself from Merek, just because suddenly I am of terrified of losing him and lay awake worrying about every disease or possible accident.

I can’t detach myself physically just because I am feeling overwhelmed by the 24 hours cycle of feeding him, changing him, bathing him, and cleaning up after his little tornado trail.

I can’t stop investing time and energy into his life, just because I am really tired that day.

I can’t stop training him, just because he keeps doing the same thing over and over and over again.

I can’t help crying over touching stories or getting ridiculously excited when he learns to stack the blocks by himself.

I can’t help feeling rushes of love, pride, embarrassment, or frustration depending on his actions.

There are hours, afternoons, and whole days at work when I am not physically with him.

But still he is at the back of my mind the whole time.

I carve out time alone during the day, get babysitters, and keep pursuing my professional life.

But I never totally leave him behind.

This is the biggest transition for me. The one thing I did not prepare for. The hardest place for me to find balance.

Suddenly for first time in my life I am forced to be present with my emotions all the time.

Esta’s Thai Red Curry

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A couple things first.

I am not a cook.

I will not be making a habit of this. (Fuzzy ugly picture to prove that)

I am not claiming this is perfectly authentic or tastes just like the takeout from your local restaurant.

However.

Several people have asked for this.

This is somewhat of an original recipe. I’m sure you can find one similar if you search the web hard enough, but this particular one is my own combination of several recipes with my own additions. I started with the recipe at the back of my curry paste tub, added ideas from 2-3 online and cookbook recipes and then modified it to fit my kitchen.

In the online flurry of sugar cookie, candy, hot drink recipes, I thought a little red spicy dish might help offset some of the sweetness this Christmas Eve.

Esta’s Thai Red Curry

*With red curry I have found that for the curry paste and the coconut milk, the type you buy plays a HUGE role in the taste. If you use an American brand like Thai Kitchen or anything like that, it will not taste right AT ALL, plus be very expensive. I have found it is worth the effort to stock up on Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste (at your local Asian market for 3 dollars a tub. Makes a least a dozen meals or more meals) and some type of Thai canned coconut milk ( I use this brand, which is 1.50 at my local market). I buy a lot when I do and it lasts for ages. Once you have those two ingredients this can be a clean-out-the-fridge meal with whatever veggies you have.*

2 C cooked meat (I usually use chicken)
1-2 tbs coconut oil
1 onion, cut in strips
1/2 red or green pepper, cut in strips
1 carrot, cut in strips,
2 C spinach
1/2 C bamboo shoots
(Any other veggies you have on hand)
1 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
1-3 tbsp red curry paste (depending on your taste and your company)
1 can coconut milk
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp lime juice
Salt and pepper.

Fry meat ahead of time, unless using leftovers. Fry all veggies in coconut oil until softened but still crisp. Add the curry paste and ginger and fry for 30 secds or so. Add 2 Tbsp coconut cream from top of coconut milk can and fry for another minute.*Add rest of coconut milk. Add all the other ingredients (except spinach) and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook until the veggies are soft and then meat is heated through. Add spinach and cook till just wilted. Serve over rice.

*Many recipes call for water or chicken stock as well. I like mine as creamy as it can get so I omit that. The choice is yours

If you make it, tell me if it tastes o.k.

How I was prepared, to some extent

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Oregon winter is here in all of its foggy beauty and Mr. D makes breakfast early while watching Merek and planning his history lessons.

I sleep in because we are just crawling out from under a month of teething/head colds.

I use my coping mechanism for exhaustion I learned in Slate Falls.

Basically I cut out everything except for important survival stuff like eating, doing dishes, and going to work. And, for this season, we add changing diapers and making sure the baby gets a bath.  I try not to worry that the Christmas decoration are not up and certainly don’t dwell too much on emotional questions like  “Does anyone even like me?” or “Why did my husband forget to buy me coffee? Does he love me?”

When exhausted, mental space should be purely devoted to the basic and concrete. I am loved by God. I am worthy. I don’t need to do everything. Anything else should be shelved for a time when your brain is not foggy with lack of sleep.  I learned this early in my life in the North and it saved me from the burn out I saw in fellow nurses. You don’t try to “fix” anything or anyone in this stage. You don’t entertain questions about faith or humanity. You don’t try to change the world. That all can wait.

If you live a broad life and embrace new experiences you will probably end up obtaining a lot of the life lessons and tools that are needed in future careers, marriage, or motherhood without reading books or taking classes or attending seminars. And I’m not talking cooking, cleaning, and keeping organized.  Things like conflict resolution, sacrifice, independence, and your emotional/spiritual health—all important in every season of life.

I have found this too be true the last two years in many ways.

Conversely, so many things I learned in this season would have been helpful when I was single, if time was more fluid and less linear, but alas.

We got through those stretching newborn weeks, endured over 2 months of awful nursing issues, weeks of recovering from his tongue tie release, and then oh bliss, a few precious weeks of “Wow, having a kid is easy peasy”, before he started waking up every few hours, gnawing on his fist, drooling like a St Bernard, and generally being dramatic about whole thing. Clearly not something he got from me, right?

Despite being tired and not having an easy first few months, I have fought to not just ingest all the stereotypes about mothering.

I had learned in single-hood and in early marriage that sort of thing was crippling for me instead of helpful, as it is for some people.

I value authenticity, but find speaking cliches over my life, good or bad, tend to do more harm than good.   So while phrases like “Better enjoy your sleep, once baby comes you will never sleep again”, “You will never feel so inadequate at anything”, or even the popular “Motherhood is the more rewarding thing you will every do”, are ALL very close to the truth, they are not the whole truth.

Mothering is not like anything I have done yet, but just like every new stage, I bring myself. I have experienced personal growth and change, absolutely, but surprisingly I found I define the title of motherhood in my life, motherhood does not define me.

My worst days as a nurse and my worse days as a wife have been when I tried to shove myself into the role, instead of letting who I am, the PERSON God has created me to be, define how I live it out.

Turns out those are the worst days for me as a mother as well.

Every story is different. I hear new moms say, “Nothing prepared me for this”, while speaking about early motherhood.

We are all the same in that we are overwhelmed. Oh my, so very overwhelmed at times.

However, my choices and experiences in the past 10 years DID prepare me for this, if I can just recognize it.

I know stereotypes constrict and bind me into trying to fit into roles that hurt me.

I know how to handle night upon night without sleep.

I also carry my depression “toolbox”, which recognizes that this stage of motherhood I have a lack of sleep, more tendency for isolation, and lots of cloudy days where walking is hard. I have trouble finishing a cup of tea without being interrupted. Because of the past, I know this means I need to be very careful.

While on call as a nurse I have had many days, although not as constant as now, where the amount of time and energy I had to give to others took the place of sleeping, eating, and having “me time”. I learned then how retain my personhood while there wasn’t much time for myself.

I know that relationships need intentional feeding at times like that or they just slide into the background.

Travel taught me that the world is always bigger than your little problems, right this moment.  It keeps me from feeling stuck in the everyday, when the diaper pail is too full.

Nursing school taught me to being content with never truly completing a list.

There were rich life experiences that prepared me for motherhood

Yet, this new adventure also brings new lessons for new stages to come.

Like, how, even though I know my depression triggers, do I combat it now when I can’t sleep, have a sick baby who shouldn’t be out walking in the cold, and can’t seem get my house clean no matter how hard I try?

How do I retain my “personhood” when every day is like a busy on-call day and finding time for devotions, reading, writing, and being outdoors takes energy I don’t have right now?

How can I fight inward isolation when I the culture that I find myself is harder for me to understand than any of the others I have lived in?

I have lessons to learn in all of those.

In ten years I hope I can look back and see that what I learned through this adventure now, prepared me for whatever adventure that stage holds.

Introducing our son

One blurry month ago I fell back exhausted after 5 days of active labor and they laid all 7 pounds and 13 ounces of my squalling first born son on my chest. FINALLY. I didn’t instantly float into a rainbow cloud of mother-wonder and count every finger and toe. It all seemed to real and earthy for that. I simply held him as close as my weak arms could and mentally gave praise for that loud wail and those strong angry fists that flailed against my chest. What else could he be, but a bit dramatic? 🙂

We have had one beautiful, hard, and holy month of loving him, even as he picks away so innocently at our selfishness.

Merek Justin Doutrich

“Mighty Ruler”// “Righteous”

Born July 20th, 2014 at 4:59pm

7lbs, 13oz. 20 ½ inches long.

(Hair color is still being heavily debated.)

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A time to come back

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King Solomon spoke about a time to keep silent and a time to speak. I’m quite sure if the internet had been in existence when he wrote Ecclesiastes, he would have included a couple stanzas on that very subject.

This last year and a half was my time to keep silent. Every time I reached for my keyboard to “process” something, I would feel that inward hesitation that I have learned to listen to closely. Not the writer’s block I experienced in Slate Falls, but more of a simple call to be quiet and ponder rather than share and express.

Now looking back over the last year and a half, I can laugh with pure relief that I listened to that still small voice.

I do believe that transparency and honesty are very important, if not just for that fact that it can remind us that we are not the only ones who struggle.

It was healing for me to write about my depression, growing up, and struggle with self-acceptance in my early twenties.  I don’t’ think I’ll ever look back and regret that. And I will always wish I had written more during my time in the North, as hard as it was to express what I was experiencing.

I know there were several who were looking forward to me writing about my transition into marriage and a more traditional Mennonite community. Believe me, I was just as interested myself to see how that would go.

I’m sure the time will come to share different aspects of it.

The silence was not because it was very difficult or traumatic. I simply needed space and rest to figure everything out again. And I got it! While there was a lot to learn and adjust to, it certainly wasn’t any worse than any other cross-cultural experience I’ve went through. It has been a beautiful year and a half of rest and renewal. Countless nights I would wake up at 3 am and just revel in the quiet and security, knowing there was nowhere I would rather be than right here.

However, it was important this time that I didn’t record ALL THE FEELINGS with ALL THE INTERNET.

I thank God daily that Justin is the kind of man who listens and seeks to understand without passing judgement. It made the adjustment so. much. easier. Countless times he would drop everything to listen to me rant, take me on a hike when I felt misunderstood, or assure me when I felt like I would never belong.

It took me a while, but for the most part I have now worked through the initial mental struggles with moving to a new place and a new culture. I am learning to embrace all the beautiful things it has to offer, instead of focusing on what I think needs changing or what I don’t understand. And I know that is not revolutionary—that’s just part of acclimating to and accepting a new place/culture/country.

My spirit feels more at rest than in has in a long, long time. I can look back over the last 6 years and can so clearly see the work of God in every step that even on the hard days there is that calm assurance that this is where I am supposed to be.

It’s hard to explain how amazing it is for me to feel RELAXED. I don’t’ think people quite understand how foreign that feeling was for me. And I know this stage won’t last forever either. I don’t feel called to live “relaxed”, it’s just an oasis along the way. There is a settled contentment with myself and my life that I don’t know if I have ever experienced quite this way.

Each journey looks different, I guess.

In this restoration I have moved from simply “reacting” to life to being able to be more fully present with each stage.

When I found out, a little before our first anniversary, that I was carrying my first child, I laughed all morning with wonder and excitement. I knew more change was coming so fast, but I felt like I could reach out to it, instead of pulling back, afraid of “not being enough”.  My reaction would have been very different a few months before.

Oh yes, there have been nights of wrestling, like we all have. And a few weeks this winter were I had to revisit my old depression toolbox to keep the dark cloud from descending again.

Yet, I feel whole and that is a good place to go forward from.

I think I’m ready now to come back here now.

For my own benefit, for far away family, and for anyone who may be still hanging around after this long absence.

How I miss my girlhood.

I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to be a child.

Is that really important, I wonder?

Maybe I’m supposed to be learning how to be a grownup—now that I’m married and have my own electric mixer.

It’s so important that we grow up. And it’s hard, like I wrote back in college.

Maybe it was somewhere in all of that.

Sometimes, in Slate Falls, all I thought was serious, grown up things. I didn’t have time to walk in the snow or take kids to Bible Study.  I just wanted to hide in my room and sleep. I just didn’t want anyone to die.

Maybe it was then. 

Somewhere in the last 6 years I’m afraid I’ve forgotten.

Forgotten how to lay awake and day-dream. Forgotten how to celebrate little joys. Forgotten how to delight in simple lighted candles or the way the snow looks in the morning. Forgotten how to live expecting good things. 

I’m not unhappy or depressed. Oh no! My life has been so so dearly beautiful this year. I love so many things, in a quiet, grown up way.

And I suppose that is how it should be.

But I miss it. I miss being that forever day-dreaming chatterbox. I miss getting flashes of inspiration. I miss that subtle expectancy that was always there in the corner on my mind. I miss reading a good book without feeling guilty.

And I’m only working two days a week, so it’s not like I don’t have time to be a girl again.

I just can’t seem to recover that part of me—which is a strange feeling, like a huge chuck of who Esta really is has just disappeared over the last few years without me realizing it.

Maybe that is how it’s supposed to be.

But I don’t like it.

I miss the Esta-girl a lot, now that my life has settled down enough for me to notice. 

From Bannock to Obama care.

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My Thank You cards are still sitting here on the table, waiting to be mailed. They were printed two months ago, written one month ago, addressed two weeks ago, and now are still waiting for stamps.

Which goes to show that they are right—your habits don’t magically change with marriage.

But you knew that.

I’m still the same chaotic, unapologetic procrastinator. Except of course, with things like mid-morning tea breaks, or one more chapter , or let’s stop and rearrange the living room ( 10 times and counting!).

I’m processing more than changing these days.

It’s a lot to take in.

True North Strong and Free moving to the heart of God Bless America.  No CBC radio, just lots of Rush Limbaugh.  Middle-of-nowhere wilderness to small town USA.  Single, independent nurse suddenly a married woman.  Non-denominational church plant member becomes Mennonite wife. From snow to rain, lakes to grass fields, OHIP to Obama care, bannock to casseroles, guitars to acapella, and everything in between.

I’m the same person, but so much of the exterior identity has drastically changed in such a short time.

What does one even do with that?

So I process everything slowly, a little at a time. Sometimes quietly in my own thoughts and prayers and sometimes very loudly to Justin or whoever will listen.

Graceful transitions have never been my strong point.

Although, as we learned in Sunday school, our identity is in Christ, we are not static beings. We grow and then we shift and sometimes we slide a little backwards. We all can feel a little lost in the middle, when who we were has slipped away  and who we are becoming is still sliding in.

That is where I am right now.

Aside

The thing of it is

The thing of it is,

it was never supposed to happen.

Things that hopeless never do.

It was never supposed to happen,

because it never could.

We left too much mess for human hands to ever repair.

 

But the thing of it is,

what never can happen sometimes does,

in the upside down way that the gospel has.

 

And we would have never chose the road

ever, ever, ever, ever, ever

but it was ours, hand-picked by Jesus,

more painful and messy, when no one thought

redemption was growing in the dim comers.

 

And I learned to stop telling those lies

and you found grace to be a living thing

and we both found Jesus in the dark,

after we broke each other’s hearts that year,

and realized He was all the mattered.

 

It was him that changed us.

 

Him that pulled my car into that warehouse two years later.

Him that told you to come back and repair the impossible.

Him that kept everything from blowing to pieces.

Him that brought healing in dark places.

Him that whispered direction at every dead end.

Him that held everything for 10 months of sorting through pieces.

Him that kept us from walking away, when both of us wanted to.

Him that gave you the heart to write over seventy letters

to a girl who didn’t ever write you back.

 

He’s the one who gave you the endurance to stay.

He’s the one who told me to just trust.

He’s the one who came through every time.

 

And He’s the one who smiled

as we sat in that counsellors office

and you offered everything

and nothing but “but blood, toil, tears and sweat”

and I fell in love with you all over again.

 

The thing of it is,

it was never supposed to happen.

But it did.

He did.

And we happened.

I’m going to tell you all the new things.

So I got married.

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67 days ago I was carried down the aisle a married woman, homemade veil catching on his boutonniere , feeling weightless and a little  dazed.

After a wild three month engagement that included moving across the country,  planning a wedding, a nasty bout with influenza, and packing to move my entire life to Oregon, I was ready for that day to be here. It was a beautiful, chaotic celebration of Grace. Just as we prayed it would be.

It is hard to believe we are on this side of things. That all the cracks in  the broken road came together at last, healed, and we are married.

We spent a week in log cabin for our honeymoon, listening to the rain on the tin roof and feeding the woodstove. Basically the most relaxing thing I’d done in months.

I moved to Oregon. Rain. Fog. Green grass. Mountains. I love it so much. Always have.

I moved into this house.DSC_6890

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We got poison oak like it was going out of style. See my defiled face below. Along with my healed face so you know I didn’t stick like that.

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We also adopted two little birds, Fili and Kili. They chirp and flutter in my living room and take bathes in old jar lids. Justin just smiles when I coo over them.

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My words, in written form at least,  seem all stopped up inside since leaving Slate Falls. As I told Justin, I feel like there is a large cork keeping them all nicely squished down. I’m trying to write again but it is painful right now. So I will leave you with this short update and the reassurance that I am still trying.

(Wedding pictures by the amazing Justin Mullet Photography)

Changes

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Was it just September that I left Slate Falls?

It could have been yesterday and it could have been a lifetime depending on my emotional and mental state.

So yes, I left Slate. Worked that last day until 1700, organized referrals, make the typical 60 calls to stubborn health workers across the district,  ran the last meds across to the band office at 1650, locked the clinic, got in my car, and drove away. BAM. Done. Finished. Goodbye, gotta go, gotta make it out before dark, see ya later, nice knowing you.

Gone.

No more phone ringing. No more late night calls. No more broken fax machine. No more responsibility to keep things organized  or running smooth or keep people alive, and happy. No more wood smoke. No more tea and potlucks. No more laughing at Miriam racing off to the plane.

I was so sure I would cry the whole way out, part with exhaustion, part with sadness, part with joy.

But I didn’t. I was numb and calm. Had to get to Dryden before dark. Had to get oil changed, battery changed, and drive to MN the next evening. I spent the next three days driving to Orgeon.

Three months later, I am exactly 16 days away from my wedding.

Yes, you read that right. I’m getting married in 16 days.

To some of you that is old news. Some of you are like, “Um..WHAT?”

It is a long story.

Which can wait.

Nia told me he was the one, after she saw letter after letter come out of that old canvas mail bag this spring and never saw me send one in return. “He’s a rare man”, she said.

Somewhere in the next 5 months I found I loved him for the 2nd time in my life. Maybe for the first time, but that’s just too complicated. The best gift I’ve ever been given.

So I’m going to marry Justin Doutrich on the 26th in my simple, homemade dress, with lots of birch trees and “Except for Grace…”  written on the isle, because that what our story is. Grace. All Grace.

We will move back to Oregon and for the first time in many, many years I’m going to try to stop running, stop using adrenalin, and stop being in the middle of crisis. Maybe getting married when you are still totally burnt out wouldn’t be recommended in those Christian how-to  books, but I have it on official word from Jesus, Justin, and a psychologist, that I will be just fine—all reputable sources in my option. It will be an interesting ride.

I’m going to actually live in a Mennonite community for the first time ever.  Stay tuned for embarrassing stories to follow J

As Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, “ Wish me…wisdom, courage, and a sense of humor… I shall need them all”