Barely Balancing Beautiful

When the plane touched down, I felt fine. On the flight from Missouri, I had been seated next to a retired Army Colonel who entertained me the entire flight with a lively discussion of politics, psychology and his opinions of Mormons. After allowing him to wax poetic at length with all sorts of a misinformation about us, I took great delight in finally telling him that he was sitting next to one of them. More lively discussion followed on how I was “too smart to be a Mormon”, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching his paradigm shift as he processed that the intelligent woman he’d been talking to for three hours was, in fact, one of Them.

It was the perfect cap to a stimulating and fun cluster of days spent with people I consider really freaking smart and interesting, and it still floors me that they invite me to be a part of these discussions. Last week, when I flew into Missouri, I had a great opening day with MichelleAM and her delightful husband Ray. Then, later that night, when they headed back across the state, I met up with some of my favorite people on the planet- gathered to Zion from as far as Boston, Arizona, Michigan, Wyoming, Kansas, Canada and Salt Lake City. These are friends who I regularly commune with via email and blogs, but whom I see perhaps once or twice a year- and it was a happy gathering.

My friends: John, Mark, Brad, Me, Kristine and Russell

We headed to barbecue more than once (Independence is, after all, a suburb of Kansas City, and when in KC… well, you best be eating some barbecue) an Gates’ burnt ends kicks the trash out of Jack Stacks burnt ends. Ditto the brisket. Do be prepared to be yelled at as soon as you enter Gates, if you ever go- when you open the front door, the counter woman screams at you to tell her what you want, and you’d better know. To be safe, just yell BURNT ENDS! and trust in God. You won’t be sorry.

Over the weekend, we had our panel presentation with the John Whitmer Historical Society and the Restoration Studies Symposium, and feedback tells me it went very well. I was so proud to stand with the intelligent, faithful and thoughtful people that made up the panel- and it still astounds me that I get to be friends and colleagues with such amazing people.

After spending some time sightseeing and exploring (and experiencing midwestern spring weather) it was time to head home and rejoin real life. These little trips away fill me up and help me remember who I am aside from the frazzled single mama and full-time student. Half the time, I feel like I’m barely managing to meet the unending needs in my regular life, and this- creating a presentation, crafting an essay, speaking to an audience- is something I can do, and do well. I love to travel, I love to write; I get tremendous satisfaction from these trips.

Re-entry to regular life is always a tiny bit bumpy, but almost never a big deal. Just have to pull up my big-girl pants and get back to work. So I got off the plane and wished my seat companion the best, and headed outside to meet my ride. Coming from the midwest, where blossoms bedecked the trees and lush green pervaded the landscape, I was shocked at the cold sleet that stung my face and arms outside passenger pickup. Sharp intake of breath and trying to shrug on my previously unneeded coat, and I spotted my ride. Tossing my bags in the backseat, I sank into the heated leather of the front, and began to shiver- and that was the beginning of an ugly, painful slide…

The woman who picked me up is a relative of my X, and one of the kindest women I’ve ever known. She and her husband are all I have of family here in the northwest, and they love me and my kids. She is also an RN. She enthusiastically inquired about my trip, but I was beginning to shiver violently, and my breath was catching in my throat. My plane landed near 1:00, and by 2:00 I had carpool with 8 kids, X and his mother would be over for visitation an hour later, I had school that night, a paper due, and it all came crashing down onto me the reins I had to pick up, and pick up NOW.

Never in my life have I felt so overwhelmed as I did in that moment. I was coming from an intellectual and personal high, and crashing back into my very difficult life in a shivering fireball. I landed in a city I don’t want to live in anymore, where memories of a life that is no longer mine torment me everywhere I look, to come back to mountain after mountain that I must (must!) climb- and other than wanting to wrap my arms around my kids and take them with me, I wanted nothing more than to run. Get out. Leave. It was panic.

My hands were shaking- my whole body was shaking- and tears were running down my face in uncontrollable torrents. What the hell was going on? My friend wisely laid her hand on my trembling knee, and told me I was okay, that it was just panic, and that I needed to simply try and calmly breathe. Gradually, on the drive home, the trembling stopped and I regained control of myself.

Back in Little House, I had about 20 minutes to gather myself together and head out to pick up and deposit scads of children, three of which were my own. I threw my bags on the bed and looked around. The panic was gone. There are things I don’t like about where I am, there are things I cannot wait to change, and trusting the process is so incredibly hard sometimes. I feel like I’ve been waiting for years for things to be something other than “survival mode” and maybe things already are better- it’s difficult to tell in myopia of my own situation.

I’m ready for some sunshine- literally and figuratively. I know I can do this- that I must do this, and that I will conquer this mountain. And even the next one and next one to come… I just want to set myself down by the river every once in a while, take off my shoes and let the sunlight warm my face. Chat with some friends, write a bit, eat some barbecue, and maybe lay in the grass looking up at the blue spring sky through a bower of blossoms. It’s coming…I have faith… it’s just hard to remember when the sky is still gray and there is sleet on my window.

7 thoughts on “Barely Balancing Beautiful

  1. Tracy, thank you!! I could have written the 2 paragraphs. I needed to hear this today; to know that somebody understands even if it’s just a little bit — even if our situations are different. Thank you so much.

  2. You know what I’m going to say. If it’s sunshine you want, we have it in spades, baby! Come here!! Bring your kids! We’ll feed them and throw them in the pool while you sit and allow the sun to warm you.

    Panic attacks suck. But you’ll be OK – you always are, amazingly enough. And it is amazing.

  3. Tracy, you have a lot of people who love and support you right where you are. That is a tremendous blessing. However, when you need to escape (or dream of escaping), keep in mind that the Midwest is green most of the year (and it doesn’t always rain as if it’s the Northwest!) and you have people who love you here and everywhere.

    Re-entry and panic attacks are tough.

    I tend to bang my head against the figurative wall in these situations – but I do so far less often since Ray had an epiphany that changed my thinking. He calls them my Moses/Nephi moments: coming down off the mountain after an incredible high to find your people reveling and building a Golden Calf, or your brothers murmuring and plotting to kill you. It’s hard to return to whatever reality awaits us, but there are also moments of joy and glory in our hard lives. By focusing on what I have gained from my mountain experiences that have refilled my bucket, I’ve found it easier to accept the difficulties inherent in “coming down” and to survive the transition.

    May you continue to find ways to “barely balance beautiful” – because you end up doing it amazingly well.

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