You Can’t Fix Joy

It’s been a rough couple of weeks.  The house hasn’t been truly clean in I don’t know how long.  (Oh yes, I do.  It was when the housekeeper came 3 weeks ago.)  The laundry hasn’t been caught up since before that.  And all that would probably be okay if I was having a spectacularly creative or effusively happy time with the kids.  But I’m not.  The girls have been fighting a lot, Ezekiel has completely un-potty-trained himself, and Gabriel – wait for it – didn’t nap today, and I’m sensing he’s nearing the end of napping.  Calgon, take me away.  (Now, dang it.  That was not a request.  Take me away now.)

Some days, I just want to bang.my.head.against.a.wall.  Scratch that.  I get that feeling every day lately, to some varying degree, for some varying length of time.  You wouldn’t know it, though, because I usually don’t share the head-banging urges.  Mostly because they are fleeting and because even in the midst of all the crazy, I still find joy in this life of mine.
Oh, you think she’s crazy now?  Keep reading!

Often, however the reason I don’t share is because I’m worried about what other people will think.  Weird, right?  The woman who defies convention after modern-day convention (and then obnoxiously peppers the Internet with her musings) is worried what other people will think about her?

Worse, I’m worried about what other people will say, in their effort to be helpful or caring.

If I:

  • mention that one of the girls is fighting me on homeschooling, what well-meaning friend will ask: Why don’t you just put them in school?
  • talk about being worried about money when we go back to the States, which friend will suggest that I just go back to teaching?
  • ponder aloud the sheer volume of our family’s laundry and my ineptitude at staying on top of it, who will wonder how I could even consider wanting more kids, much less cloth diapering them?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I think about these things a lot, but mostly when I’m having a bad day/week/month/quarter.  But something holds me back from sharing about them, and I think I just figured out what it was.

 

Quick!  Come over here and hide from the nutty lady!

Of all my in-real-life friends, I have the most kids.  Of my college friends, I’m one of the only ones who has chosen to stay home with kids rather than continuing a career, and I’m the only (friendly) psychopath who has elected to homeschool the little darlings.

So my subconscious mind says:

Micaela, suck it up.  You made your co-sleeping bed, now lie in it.  Don’t you dare go sharing about how hard it is or people might never want to have more than 2 kids.  They might never homebirth or homeschool and they might not do it because your complaining turned them off.  Because you made them scared and fearful, or at the very least, wary.  Micaela, keep your struggles to yourself, because not only did you make these decisions and forfeit your right to complain about them, but [warning: brutal honesty ahead] if you only present the rosy side of your life, you might possibly fool someone into thinking [insert religious/holistic practice here] is so great that they jump right in and give it a try.

(echo echo echo…)

Pardon my language, but WTH was I (subconsciously) thinking?

Why, yes, my mom IS crazy.  Thanks for asking!

Look, I haven’t intentionally kept secrets or hid parts of my life, and I most certainly wasn’t trying to play the serpent in the garden and tempt you with the fruits of my… chicken broth?  I dunno.  But please believe me when I say: I wasn’t doing any of this weird head-game stuff on purpose.  As odd as it may seem, all this pride is a misguided by-product of my joyful life.

Let me explain, and I better make it quick cause this post is looooooong and I’m guessing only about 20% who started are still reading, so here goes:

I take a deep and abiding joy in my life.  That joy transcends the happiness/sadness/annoyances of my every day life.  The joy comes from a trust that God is working within me, no matter how badly I muck it up on a daily basis.  That trust and joy provide a center, a true North, to come back to even when things are indescribably hard.

But that’s not something most of the world sees.  The world equates joy with happiness.  Ergo: according to the world, if I’m not happy, some aspect of my life must be in need of fixing.  Enter, the well-meaning suggestions.

Today is the day I come clean.  My life isn’t rosy.  My life is complicated.  Having 4 kids is hard. (Ha!  My Internet friends with 5, 6, 7+ kids are doubled over with laughter.)  Homeschooling is difficult.  Some days the kids fight all day, and some days I really would like to go back to work, if only just to escape the menacing glare of the laundry monster for a few hours.

But my life is mine and I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China, or all the coffee in Brazil.  Okay fine, maaaaayyyybe for the coffee.

My life is so full of joy, sometimes I’m surprised you can’t see it coming out my ears.

Whatever life you’ve chosen, I hope it’s a joyful one for you.  And you have my solemn promise: when you complain about it, I’m not going to think “Well, you made that bed, so lie in it,” and I definitely won’t try to fix it.

Because joy doesn’t need fixing.  Sometimes all it needs is a beer, and a “Oh, man.  I hear ya, sister.”

 

Comments

  1. Loved this post! Thanks for making it real! I like to share the good as well as the challenges in this crazy life of homeschooling, co-sleeping, and raising 4 kids…it’s no walk in the park!

  2. Well here it is, “I hear ya sister!” This is so amazing I read it twice, and my new response to people who question if I know my choices make my life harder is going to be, “What I’m really after is transcendent joy.”

    I think that the world likes to equate “hard” with “bad,” including my own children. And this is just so very far from the real capital T Truth. I have those moments, um, everyday, where the laundry is about the most frightening thought I can think of, and the allure of doing something else than this is overwhelming (and geez, in those moments I do believe I would jump at all the coffee in Brazil!)

    But those moments do not define my life, the overall experience does, really, like the lovely ones you record here, and they are still totally authentic even though you didn’t include the part about the kids fighting or losing your own temper (oh, that’s me).

    So grateful for your honesty and wisdom, and “you made your co-sleeping bed, now lie in it,” sums up my life!

    • Yes. Yes. Yes. Hard does equal bad to a lot of people, even me sometimes! And I have to be honest. When I wrote that line about coffee, I almost added, “We’ll maybe for *that*”. 🙂

    • Yes to all of this- your post and these comments. Once when I wrote about marriage being hard but the sacrament making it possible, someone said “so am I crazy for still wanting to get married?”

      No! Hard doesn’t mean bad! All of the most incredible things we will do in life will be hard!

      Yes, that is what I told her.

    • It’s true, right? Difficult things have the most rewarding results. Now, only to remember that when staring down the laundry/dishes/bedtime.

    • That’s a great way to put it. That people equate hard with bad. Heck, even I do that. But it isn’t. Thanks, Micaela for the wonderful post and Rebekah for the insightful reply!

  3. Sometimes I worry about what others think because I think the same things about other people. (Terrible, isn’t it?) But I can only control what comes out of my mouth (and even then I do an awful job).

    And you know what? I think 4 kids or 1,2,or3 kids is hard. It just is.

    Good luck. Your kids are lucky to have you!

    • Having any number of kids is hard because kids are hard! That’s something I always remember when talking to other moms, but I’m still critical of myself. Sheesh!

  4. (wine glass clinks beer bottle) I hear you sister! (oh wait, I am back to the under twenty one United States 🙂 But really, I think that I do hear you, I did after all live with you for a while. For the record, I love you all and miss you all and actually I miss doing your laundry! 🙂

  5. Oh my goodness, I completely get where you are coming from! I hear ya, sister!! I find it so hard to know what to say on my blog and such because I know most of the people who read it are not Catholic or homeschoolers and think we’re at least slightly crazy doing all the things we do. It seems so much easier to communicate the frustrations than the joy – and I think I sound false (or at least cheesy) if I try to wrap up everything I say by trying to point to the joy. And I know it sounds contradictory to many, but only because we as a culture are so deeply confused about joy and happiness.

    And then there’s the fixers… argh! Well meaning, yes, but oh so obnoxious. Right now I’m particularly annoyed by those who are sympathetic and offer to help but then don’t follow through. I mean, yes, we’re all busy and whatever… but if you’re going to offer some sort of help, do it, for goodness sakes!

    • Amber, my blog started out as a family/friend blog but it’s added quite a few blogger readers. So I have a really varied readership. I totally know what you mean about being cheesy. How do I share the joy while still seeming authentic?

  6. Had me fooled! I assumed it was totally a complete breeze to raise four kids (so far), home school and live in a country where you can never be totally sure what meat is being served at the restaurant. 🙂 May your overwhelmedness be short-lived!

    • I might believe you, T, but you witness first-hand the weekly Mass-ercise that constitutes my Sunday morning workout. I’m not foolin’ you.

  7. I hear ya! Yes, life with little kids and homeschooling and all that IS hard. And there are moments that are VERY hard. But, there is also so much joy involved and you can’t fix that. Sometimes the only way to reach joy, is through the pain and hard work (kinda like child birth).

    • Yes! I got some criticism for my choices to have natural births/homebirth. I think those people just didn’t understand that idea about how triumphant it feels to get through it. And life is kind of like that.

  8. Loved this one! I really love it when moms tell it like it is!

  9. I’ve learned who I can share my concerns with and who I can’t. Bad homeschooling day? I don’t call my mom, I jump on my local HS support group’s loop. Five kids running me ragged? Again, I don’t turn to my friend who had two and “was through” I email my close friend with seven and I know she understands. It’s hard to get support from people who just don’t “get it”. Thankfully, the internet has introduced me to lots of people just as “crazy” as me. They offer meaningful advice or just a shoulder. (And I’ve actually had great friends just send me a cooler of beer during some of my hardest times.)
    You know, like, you have a great blog post idea, and you’re kids won’t give you five minutes of peace at the computer; I hear ya!

  10. Even when you complain I hear the joy in your voice (yes, even thru the internet). Because of you and your mom I’ve always thought that if I had kids I would home school them. Part of the reason I Don’t have kids is because I’ve always wanted to be able to stay home with them and I never figured out a way to do that. That sounds like a very selfish reason to not have kids, trust me (well, you KNOW me) it is a SMALL reason on why I don’t have kids. There are much bigger reasons for that one. Anyway, I know you and I watched your mom with all of your siblings and I was always amazed at how calm she always was, you my friend have never been that calm. Even without this post I know there has to be way more crazy in your life than you let on. I still admire you and you mom for staying at home with all these crazy kids and living the lives you live.