Becca Wilhite Blog

July 18, 2017

A Thing About Discouragement

Filed under: anxiety,emotion,food,losing it,Uncategorized — becca @ 9:34 pm

Germans probably have a word for that feeling where everything is going pretty well, and all the people you love are healthy and fine, and one small unpleasant thing in your otherwise glad life totally throws you over the edge.

Hey, Germans, what’s the word for that?

Because I had it this week. And it’s making me weepy and mopey and generally incapable of productivity and adulthood.

And I feel the need to put on my happy face and buck the hell up (sorry, Dad). And putting on the happy face isn’t usually this hard.

The thing is, once this over-the-edging happens, everything looks darker and gloomier and there’s no actual reason for trying to get out of bed in the morning and it’s probably a good idea to watch three hours of Riverdale with the 13-year-old and probably also 4-5 episodes of Criminal Minds while I’m at it and probably eat all the food that comes in cellophane packages and definitely ignore all the phone calls and texts and for sure abdicate all the responsibilities and for also sure never write again.

Like that.

This tipping of the scales (remember — for unreasonable reasons) gives me opportunities to try on darker versions of myself. I put them on like exotic silken robes or fancy hats or even jeans with on-purpose rips in them. Here’s a fun fact: Darker isn’t so good on me.

So I am doing the one thing I feel like I can do. I am taking a little control of my physical self. I am resting. I am eating green things — lots of them. (Also beets.) I am staying away from the Emotional Foods that are generally made of hot, white, buttered starch. I am walking many miles every day. I am yoga-ing both in the privacy of my room and with my lovely yogi friend who practices Wednesday mornings for an hour in a darkened church because she is made of generosity and goodness.

And I guess there’s a little more: I am reading. I am working on school things so as not to get nightmare-y in the 3:00 am hour. I am calling a friend who will tell me that it’s okay to try on the darkness for a while as long as I shuck it back off again. I am asking my man to make dinner because he is willing and good and capable. I am sitting outside on a birdsoaked night watching the sun settle over the western mountains and turn the hills flat and blue.

I am convalescing from discouragement so that I can once again be me, filled with couragement. (Germans, that’s a word, right?)

 

May 2, 2017

Found

Filed under: emotion,familyness,food,writing — becca @ 10:08 pm

I was looking for a thing in my “writerly things” file. I came across a pile of essays. Here’s one from what must be 8 years ago. There are more. I may unearth another soon.

___

When my kids were small, hours were eternal. And there were so many of them in a day. It was impossible to find an activity that could adequately fill one without driving me to lunacy or complete physical exhaustion.

Years passed, full of those ceaseless, relentless hours.

What happened, then? When did the space-time continuum shift? Why is it that now, hours are scarce, precious, and all too short? Time, that monster that used to hover over me, huffing out the moments like hot breath, has disappeared, been replaced by a frantically-ticking clock, spinning seconds into hours, into weeks and years.

These days, it’s my most important work to wrangle that clock into submission and slow down one hour a day. Keep my finger on the second hand so it won’t get out of control and run away with my family’s moments.

A few minutes of that hour happen in the morning, when groggy, bed-head kids and half-primped teens and at least one sweaty, post-work-out parent (the other parent may have abandoned the work out ritual, again) meet at the kitchen table for scripture study. It’s one time in a day that I’m grateful that school is in session. The forced schedule kick-starts our morning motivation. Even through the yawning, the paper-scorching morning breath, and the zoning out, the words get spoken aloud. And we pray together, and I pray in my heart. I pray for the sinking in. I pray for the application. I pray they’ll remember the sweet moments here, not the other kind.

The rest of the wrangled minutes come at the other end of the day. Back around the table, in what have become “our spots,” we gather for dinner. It’s my one consistent offering. We don’t do fancy. We don’t even always do tasty. I’m no Julia Child. I can’t even spell “gourmet” without looking it up. My kids didn’t know meat came on bones until I accidentally introduced them to KFC. Now they think of The Colonel as a kindly uncle who stops by once a year to clog our arteries.

Dinner is simple around here. I don’t mean easy – give me credit, please. I mean unadorned. And while I try to feed these people healthy meals full of green and growing things, that’s not even the most important part for me. The nourishing I aim for is the other kind. These minutes, the ones carved out of every evening, stolen from work schedules and rehearsals and practices and play time, these minutes hold the moments.

At the table, between passing the white salad dressing to that kid and the pink salad dressing to this kid, we hear the stories that make up the missing hours of the days. We hear the giddy stories about the boy who almost said the most charming thing. We hear the angsty stories about the friend who is, if not actively in trouble, heading that way. We hear the hilarious stories that don’t translate to any place but that table. Sorry. You had to be there. We hear the frustrating, the exciting, the proud-making stories. We hear and we tell the stories of the other parts of our lives.

And in sharing the stories, we recapture a few of those spinning moments. Every day, a few minutes at a time.

 

February 4, 2017

I though I knew what Busy was

Filed under: emotion,goals,musings,priorities,publishing,writing — becca @ 8:34 am

Once upon a time I was a high school student with a full load of challenging classes and a job and family responsibilities and I thought I was busy.

Once upon a time I was a college student with a full load of challenging classes and a job and no social life to speak of and plenty of food to cook and I thought I was busy.

Once upon a time I was a young mom with four little kids running in at least seventeen directions and I thought I was busy.

Once upon a time I was serving in a Relief Society presidency/Young Women presidency/Primary presidency in my church along with all the wonderful family things, and I thought I was busy.

Then I got a full time teaching job. And kept most of my other things. And I was pretty busy, and I learned how to be okay with sandwiches or pancakes for dinner (because, after all, sandwiches might be my love language, and pancakes are undoubtedly Kid 3’s) and a clean-ish home, and significantly less awesomeness in pretty much every aspect of my life: I still do all the things, I just don’t do any of them very well.

I miss naps. Wait. How did I take naps back in the day if I were so busy?

I miss small kids on my lap for story time. Wait. I had time to read books out loud back then when I was so busy?

I miss making bread. (Blessing: our congregation meets at 1:00 on Sundays now. Huzzah! Bread last Sunday! Cinnamon rolls the week before!)

I miss writing whenever I feel like it. Instead of its being a casual fling, I have to make time for the writing. We have to make a date with a beginning and ending minute. I have to get SERIOUS about this. And do you know what? I think it’s making me like it more. I have more respect for this thing that requires careful planning. And I have to think that’s a good development. It requires me to be grown up about it. As if, perhaps, this were a job. Which – well, they’re paying me, right?

I am in a place of perspective today that allows me to recognize the probability that I don’t know what busy is. And that it’s likely to arrive someday on my doorstep. And I want to be able to embrace it – that thing that life may bring me – wholeheartedly and generously. And I want to keep pressing forward with the other important things. And to do them better, more graciously, more gratefully.

March 2, 2016

Thoughts on Growing Up, Again and Again.

Filed under: anxiety,dumb things I do,emotion,kids,school — becca @ 12:10 pm

I was always kind of offended by the phrase “terrible twos” – is it really fair to condemn a toddler for acting his age? But I get the problem. I totally do. And I think I know why it is what it is. (*Easy for me to say, my youngest is 12.) Here’s what I think: Two year olds are split almost evenly in two halves – no, not good and evil. “I want to be big,” and “I’m the baby.” Hold me. Let me. Help me. I will do it myself.

Fast forward three years. Many of the same behaviors are exhibited by a kid starting school. A fairly even split between wanting to be independent and wanting to be coddled. In my family, it happens again at eleven or twelve. Coincidentally (?) add in hormone shifts (sweet!) and this manifests itself mostly as moodiness – but work with me here. If you could figure out if the kid wanted to be snuggled or sent on an errand, wouldn’t you kind of have life managed?

What I’m finding now is that it happens again in high school. Here’s my theory: growing up is a series of decisions about how a person wants to be treated. Kid or grown up? I mess this up every single day. I assume my students know more / can do more / are willing to stretch more than they know / can / will. They freak out. “Too much pressure!” Okay, so I’ve been treating them too Big. So I back off. I assume they know nothing and will try nothing, and they rebel. “We’re not idiots!” No. You’re not. You’re in the process of growing up. And Process is the key. (*Sometimes I get it right. Or right-ish. I try.)

If I can keep this in mind, and if I can strike a balance, for a class or a section or a kid, I can help that kid succeed in the moment. Just like when my kids were tiny, and really, really NEEDED to make their choices. If I could give my kid a couple of reasonable options, it was far more likely that the choice of the moment would end happily for both of us. (As opposed to, you know, “What would you like for lunch?” which could end in a variety of terrifying disagreements.)

So I’m searching for that balance. I’m seeking to do it respectfully – to give genuine adultish opportunities for those who are leaning that way, and to be patient about repeating the same directions a thousand times (and answering “why?” questions over and over) when they’re feeling needy. When they’re lucky, kids grow up in increments. They do it over and over, a little at a time. I need to learn to access and respect their place at the moment. And, if I’m being fair, I still have days when I want to get wrapped up in a blanket and snuggled. And plenty of times I have a fit when I think I’m being treated like a dumb kid. This may be a lifelong process, so it would be awesome if I could figure out how to do it right.

June 16, 2015

I’m sorry. I’m stupid.

Filed under: anxiety,dumb things I do,emotion,musings — becca @ 12:07 pm

Once upon a time I made what I had NO IDEA was a stupid, hurtful comment to a struggling friend. She was telling me of a newly-discovered battle she was choosing to keep private – a diagnosis of a child on the autism spectrum. I said what I thought were the right (supportive) things, and then I said something idiotic about her choice not to “wave the flag” about her kid’s diagnosis.

— Here is why I said that. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are fighting remarkable battles every moment with special-needs kids, and I applaud their parenting AND I LOVE THEIR KIDS. Having said so – I have occasionally heard acquaintances speak about their children with special needs as the need: Like, “I have my hands full with this CONDITION who also happens to be my child.” I am a huge supporter of parents who advocate for their kids, and an even more huge supporter of those who help their kids advocate for themselves. Something hurts me when a person is placed behind a diagnosis, as  opposed to the other way around. I think the human being should come first, is all.

Now, I know that what I said hurt this friend. I didn’t know it for a long time. Naturally, as soon as I realized that I had been stupid, I apologized. I recognize that what I meant and what she heard were at vast odds, and that it may have driven a fatal wedge in our relationship. I do not fault her for this in any way. I was stupid. I said something vague where (hello) even if I’d been specific, it would not have been useful or helpful. I caused hurt. The fact that I didn’t mean to? Not relevant. The fact that I apologized? Not enough. I am not here to try to fix all the dumb I’ve been responsible for in my long, long life of dumb. I am here to say that sometimes I say things that are categorically stupid, and that when I offend I am sorry. I try to keep the stupid to a minimum. I really do.

This is an event that I think about on an almost daily basis. It happened YEARS ago. The thing is, I deserve to think about it. I deserve to have it on my mind. That bad decision I made might make me slightly less stupid in future discussions of that sort (or of any sort – thoughts about that mistake enter my mind in nearly every critical conversation I have). And I think it helps me choose to take offense less often than I might, because I consider that when someone I love (or like, or simply don’t despise) says something stabby or hurtful, I can – from personal experience – choose to assume that what I hear isn’t necessarily what he meant to say.

 

March 24, 2015

Writing Stories

Filed under: emotion,metaphors,rambles — becca @ 5:34 am

It’s not just something writer-people do, you know. Everyone does it. When the car goes screaming past, we automatically give the driver a story. I learned a long time ago that the story I give the driver has more effect on the rest of my drive, and maybe my whole day, than I would have expected.

“That maniac. She’s probably hurrying home to hide the evidence of all her vile behaviors before her landlord comes for an inspection.”

“That idiot. If he’d plan his day and leave his house on time, he wouldn’t have to endanger everyone on the road. I’ll bet he’s got his music turned up so loud he can’t even hear sirens when he gets pulled over. There’s probably a shrine to that guy in the police office – Most Valuable Driver.”

These stories give me a tiny moment of satisfaction, and then an afternoon full of righteous indignation. But they’re not the only stories.

“His wife is in labor. They’ve waited so long for this baby, and she’s laughing and crying at the same time in the front seat – all the pain and anticipation blending together into a kind of baby mania, and he doesn’t know how to help her, so he’s hurrying her into the care of someone who does.”

“She’s running to her nephew’s birthday party, and the box turtle she bought him is scrambling up the sides of the crate it’s in. She’s terrified that it might get loose in the car, because there’s nothing she fears more than reptiles (are turtles reptiles?) but no one she loves more than her nephew.”

These stories make me infinitely more glad to be a part of humanity.

When I get a glare from a student or a colleague, I can assume “You hate me,” or I can develop a little backstory that is probably totally inaccurate, but makes me sympathetic to the plights of humanity.

“The babysitter she feared wore a T-shirt that said “The Grapes of Wrath” on it; it’s not me she hates, and it’s not Steinbeck. She’s dealing with long-repressed memories of being forced to eat cold canned peas.”

“He only appears to despise me. In fact, he just found out he’s been assigned to teach driver’s ed this summer, so all his longed-for early morning tee times are wafting away like a puff of smoke.”

Is it likely? Well, no. But it’s not impossible. There’s a chance that it’s not, in fact, about me at all. And there’s a more sympathetic story I can devise. The generous stories don’t change the reality of the manic driving or the glares, but they change the way I feel about it. They change the reaction from a reflex to a choice.

I prefer choice.

December 7, 2014

Sympathy

Filed under: emotion,musings — becca @ 6:43 pm

Today in church someone told a story about a devastated woman who had experienced a terrible time (losing her marriage, suffering a ton of loss and heartache, just imagine all the badness) and felt all alone in the world. She prayed for the Lord to let her know He knew her.

When I heard that story, I felt sad. Not just because it was a sad story (because the first part really, really was*), but because even though I have NO RIGHT to feel sad and alone, I often do. I am surrounded by good people who tell me they love me EVERY DAY. My husband and my kids tell me (and show me) their love every day. I have students who tell me (in exact words and inexact ones) every day.

I heard the story and I felt guilty for usurping that poor lonely, forgotten woman’s pain.

And then I tried to get over it. I may be silly and thoughtless and ungrateful to feel sad and alone, but guys, I FEEL IT sometimes. On days, or for weeks, or in moments, I really feel it. And maybe you do too. And so I’m here to say that it’s okay with me if you want to feel sad and alone. And I won’t tell you YOU SHOULDN’T. Because you’re allowed to. You’re welcome to. Because sympathy is Good. And if we feel those awful things, we understand others (who may have more obvious reasons to feel them) when we listen to their stories.

So if you feel sad, if you feel alone, if you feel unloveable (even when you’re loved), you can tell me and I’ll understand. I’ll feel those things with you, and I’ll listen to you say why you feel them, and I won’t tell you you’re wrong.

Because I get it. I really, really do.

___

* In the second part of the story, she saw a sign of God’s love. Literally. She saw a sign that said, “You are Loved.” And that was her answer. And I like her answer.

November 18, 2014

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today

Filed under: emotion,events,family,history,libraries,Mom,musings — becca @ 12:32 pm

Five years ago today, I posted this. I’m reposting it now because reasons. Mainly that I was thinking about it this morning and so I shared it with my English classes. I cried when I read it to them – not for sadness, but because my heart was leaking love for all the people in the story. All of them.

I’m sure it must have been embarrassing for my class to see me lose it a little – that’s not an everyday occurrence. I apologized, but honestly I’m not that sorry. It’s okay for them to see me feeling things. There are worse things than feeling too much.

___

Standing at the circulation desk, filing cards grown soft at the corners, I heard the phone ring. Eager for a change of pace, even if it meant I’d be doing someone’s research over the phone, I grabbed up the receiver.

“Batesville Public Library, can I help you?”
It was my dad. Calling from the hospital room in Chicago where my mom had been admitted during their getaway weekend. He just wanted to check in on me – he’d missed me when he called home to talk to the boys.
“I’m good. Work is fine. I’m excited to go to Cincinnati this afternoon. Can I talk to Mom?”
Pause.
Now, I should explain that pauses in telephone conversations with my dad are not unusual. There is always… a great deal… of… white space… in talking with him. So why was I suddenly hot around my eyes, and tight in the back of my throat?
“Dad?”
Throat-clearing. “No. You can’t. Mom’s in a coma, Bec.”
Did I know that? Was there some conversation in the past few days where this information was given to me, and did I somehow forget about it? Is that even possible? But if not, how could he have neglected to mention such a vital fact to me?
The library, quiet anyway, went fuzzy like cotton around me. Even the whispers were muffled, and I felt wrapped up in the familiar. I didn’t even sit down. I tipped my chin to roll the tears back into my head, and finished the conversation like a well-bred teenager. Which I was.
Maybe years of living with a mom who spent a week every year in the hospital calloused me. Maybe the idea of her in the ICU was just part of my childhood. I’d lived with it my whole life, you know. So maybe you won’t find me a completely unfeeling ingrate when I tell you that the rest of the day was more than fine – it was fun.
After a rowdy drive into Cincinnati, Missy and I got dropped off downtown, scoured a few ballet supply stores (for her) and a bookstore (for me). We ate at Taco Bell. For a skinny person, Missy could really eat. She ordered no less than five menu items, and I watched, impressed, as she downed every bite. We met at the rendezvous point to get picked up for the dance.
The dance.
Here was where I belonged, in this under-decorated church-building-turned-social-hall. With these kids, from towns and cities an hour from my home — this was where I felt like me. Good kids, and all so different. Different from what I saw every day at school, and different from each other. I felt loved there, not judged, not watched, not weird. This was a place for a great deal of hugging.
Dance, dance, dance. Cute boys and happy girls and jokes and laughter and music. Forgive me for forgetting, for a couple of hours, what was going on a few hundred miles to the northwest.
After the dance, Pizza. As ever. Mr. G’s pizza, breadsticks, and root beer. More laughing. More talk. More teasing. Gentle teasing from the others, and more pointed teasing from my brother. I shook it off, like I’d learned to do (not like the years and years that I would scream and yell and then get in trouble for overreacting).
Somehow on the long drive home, I didn’t know. I had no premonitions. The earth didn’t shift. Air wasn’t sucked from the atmosphere. I just rode home, laughing and not sleepy and not afraid.
I checked on Marc. He was sleeping in the parent’s big bed, elbows and knees everywhere. Good. Wash face. Brush teeth. Change into jammies. Lights off. Climb into bed.
Knock at the door.
Blood runs cold.
Ignore it. It will go away. My fear of the dark, fueled by far too many Stephen King novels that first year I worked at the library, overtook all logic.
More knocking. Monsters. Axe murderers. Doorbell. Vampires. Psychotic animals. More knocking. Another doorbell.
I picked up the phone in my room and called our own number. I don’t know if this works anymore, technologically speaking, but that night, I hung up quickly and the phone began to ring. Once, twice, three times. It stopped. I grabbed the receiver.
“Nathan?”
“What?”
“There’s someone at the door.”
Only the intervention of a benevolent God prevented him from reminding me that axe murderers do not ring doorbells.
“Okay. Coming.” The bravest words of a brave big brother.
I stood, shivering at my bedroom door. Saw him walk from the basement stairs across the small family room. He turned and I heard the door open. Heard the Rockwoods’ voices, hushed appropriately for the time of night and the delicacy of their mission.
I didn’t wonder if we’d left something in their car. I didn’t wonder if anything terrible had happened to their kids between dropping us off and getting themselves home. I didn’t wonder anything. Because I knew.
I knew.
I walked to the front door. They’d come in, but only just. Their backs were pressed against the door, and I knew again. There were no jokes, and if the Rockwoods weren’t telling jokes, this was more serious than anything I’d ever experienced with them. Jolene, tall and stricken, held her arms out to me. I shook my head, not because I didn’t want her comfort, not because I didn’t believe, but because my head would shake. Back and forth as I was folded into her arms.
Whispered words: “Your mom…” Head shake, back and forth.
“… dad called…” Head shake.
“Come home with us, sleep at our house…” And then I could nod. Yes. Your house. That is the right thing to do. Because we shouldn’t be here alone. And we should give you the thing you need, too. We should allow you to do the only thing to do when there is nothing, nothing anyone can do.
 
Before getting in the car, I did the only thing I could do when there was nothing else to do. I went back into my room, picked up the phone again, and listened as the buttons sang Jorja’s song – the eleven-note jingle that meant I could reconnect with my far-far-away best friend.
Her mom told me she was asleep.
“Please.”
“I need her.”
“My mom died.”
Gasp. “Oh, Becca.” A quick waking, and there it was. The comfort I needed, across a thousand miles. The words, just right.
Will you be shocked, or will you understand when I tell you we laughed? Will you know what it is to share a heart, and to realize that there is a time for tears, and a time for laughter? And, sometimes, will you understand the need for both at once? Will you know that both, in equal measure, are required in order to heal?
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