Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Real Life Stories: Celeste of A Thing Called Love

Basically I think remembering that joy has more to do with me and my attitude and less to do with my circumstances helps me to choose joy.

The backstory: 

I belong to a sweet little Facebook group of women bloggers. It's small, new, and tight-knit. This post comes from that group, and I couldn't be more excited to share. These women are becoming friends as we help each other move through the world of blogging. It's really great to be surrounded by such supportive people all in the same boat. I hope you love her Real Life Story. I sure did!

TJB: Celeste! Thank you for being willing to do this interview. I'm excited. Let's jump in. Tell us all, what does having joy mean to you? 

Celeste: This is a good question. I think happiness is greatly misunderstood these days. I think people think something is wrong with their lives if they are not happy all the time.  I think people think something is wrong with their relationship if it doesn't constantly make them happy. People think something is wrong with their career, religion, children, etc, etc. 

I think this is a major reason people seek "quick fixes" to make them temporarily happy. But all too often these quick fixes serve their short-term happiness while leaving long term happiness completely empty. 

I'm starting to realize that joy does not mean being happy 100% of the time. Most of the time for me, the ratio tends to look more like 90% work, 10% unadulterated joy. With parenting, this is the case for sure, but also being healthy, marriage, projects, religion. 

It is crucial for me to remember that just because something doesn't bring me temporary happiness or pleasure doesn't mean there is something wrong with it or I should seek a new project/relationship/religion/health plan. It just means, like anything, I get out what I put in. And the getting something out of it part doesn't always happen concurrently with the putting something into it part. 

So, I guess having joy means serving my long term self and not escaping the work part of joy. 

TJB: What things bring you joy? 

Celeste: Hm, well I think I'm about to contradict my lovely little joy sonnet I just wrote by including some short-term happinesses. :) But here are some things that make me happy in both the short-term and long-term: 
  • Knowing that I helped someone be happy in big or small ways 
  • Driving by myself with a milk shake 
  • Having uninterrupted time to work on a project 
  • A productive day 
  • When we put our kids down and I get time with my husband to watch funny shows together 
  • Watching my kids accomplish something hard and seeing the pride on their faces 
  • Accomplishing something good with my blog 
  • Seeing my kids play outside 
  • Picking my happy baby up from a nap 
  • Getting together with other couples and laughing uproariously 
  • The feeling that God loves me and is pleased with what I'm doing 

TJB: Tell us about a time in your life where you dealt with a mountain that seemed impossible to climb. 

Celeste: When my third child was born, he was extremely fussy. Colic, I think they call it. If I was not aggressively soothing this child, he was screaming. I couldn't put him down and he rarely ever slept more than 45 minute stretches no matter what I tried (and, oh, I tried so many things). 

Night times were a nightmare. I can't believe I'm admitting this to the internet (me, who after my first two kids, inwardly judged moms who didn't follow Babywise, because duh, it's so easy and so much better to put your baby on a sleep schedule...Karma...), but my night time routine went something like this: pace/rock/soothe baby to sleep and put him in the swing. When he would no long tolerate the swing, pick him up from swing and put him in a bouncy chair by my bed, bounce until he's asleep. When he would no longer tolerate the bouncy chair, put him in bed with me. When he would no longer stand to be in bed with me, back downstairs to the swing. Nursing at most exchanges. 

Ugh, just remembering it is giving me shudders and making me tired. With a four year old and two year old at home as well with no pre-school (it was summer) and no breaks, I was beyond exhausted. Everyday felt like an eternity. When Lennon was two months old, I wrote this in my journal: "Time just seems to be standing still since Lennon was born. Every day feels like an eternity-like it will never be tomorrow. Every week feels like it will never be next week. Just getting to 5:30 each day seems like a huge feat." 

I felt like I could hardly spare one minute of undivided attention for my girls (let alone myself, my marriage, my friends) because Lennon needed to be almost constantly attended to. It was hard for me to ask for help from anyone because I didn't know what I wanted exactly. When I was with people, I wanted to be alone. When I was alone, I wanted to be with people. 

I was depressed. In fact, you know those surveys they make you take at the doctor whenever you or your child has an appointment? The ones measuring post partum depression that say things like, "Rate your level of pleasure you've had in doing things" and "Have you not enjoyed things that usually bring you joy?", "Are you tired or lack energy?" (with a newborn!? This question should be eliminated because how can you have a newborn and NOT be lacking energy?) Anyway, with three young kids, I take this survey so often that I've grown accustomed to just checking all the "not at all" boxes without even thinking about it. 

But at my six week post partum appointment with my OB, I decided to dig deep and answer honestly for once. Aaaaand I ended up checking "every day" for every single depression requirement. Wah wah. 

The second my OB asked me about it I broke into tears and ugly cried as I told her about life. I let the realization sink in that I was, in fact, depressed. She prescribed me some anti-depressants, which I had never even considered as a possibility. I filled the prescription and the pharmacist told me that they would take about a month and a half to start working. Oh and also sleep problems and drowsiness were a side effect. Umm, drowsiness IS why I was depressed!! So, I said, eh, no thanks to the pills. 

TJB: How did you make it through that time? I don't have kids, and can never understand how you survive without that much sleep! 

Celeste: I have no idea ;) Ha. Honestly though, I don't really have any amazing advice. Mostly, I just let time pass and knew that it would improve eventually. 

I'm a bit of a solver, and having no solution to my problems doesn't sit right with me. So, I was continuously coming up with new plans- reading new baby sleep books to try to put Lennon on a better schedule, asking our pediatrician for tips, trying to find ways to not JUST focus on my problems- anything to bring some hope in my life improvement. I think hope is how I made it through. 

TJB: Did you choose happiness as a way through those rough days? If so, what things did you do to bring happiness into your challenges? 

Celeste: I don't know that I chose happiness most of the time. I tried to choose gratitude and I tried to choose hope. And those two things helped a lot, but honestly, I think choosing happiness seemed a little out of my grasp at that time. 

Here are some things I did to try to be grateful and hopeful: 
  • I tried desperately to cling to the little moments that brought me joy as a mother every day. I wrote them down. I thanked God for them. 
  • I prayed like crazy! All day every day. The scripture I thought about over and over during this time was Matthew 7:1, which says that God knows how to give good gifts to His children. I asked for the gift of sleep first. :) And then hope and gratitude. I tried to trust that God would give me good gifts if I asked Him. And He did. I just had to make sure I noticed them. 
  • I never wanted to get together with friends because it seemed like a lot of work to get ready and muster up the energy to make pleasant conversation, but whenever I did, I always came home feeling so much more normal. 

TJB: What did you learn from this experience? 

Celeste: I don't know that I learned too many new things from the experience, but I re-learned a lot of things I already knew :) I re-learned that I truly am grateful for my challenges. I didn't think I would ever be grateful for those three months, but I am. Because after that colic curve (peaks around eight weeks, over by twelve) passed and Lennon was finally less fussy and sleeping much better and more predictably, my life became EASY. So. Easy. I think maybe if he had been a more normal newborn (adding an infant into your life is always hard - colic or no colic), then I would have seen my life as pretty hard for months- a year maybe. Probably pretty frazzled, overwhelmed. But because those three months were so intense, life after that seemed laughably easy to me (my oldest also started going to pre-school four days a week at this same time). Life got pretty awesome and I was grateful. 

It's can be refreshing to go through an all-encompassing trial because you start to realize what is really most important. I tend to stress over a lot of little things each day- usually regarding my to-do lists, but also I tend to bring guilt into my life much more often than is necessary. I worry about accidentally offending people by the things I do/don't do or say/don't say. I worry about being just the right kind of parent. About having a clean house, etc, etc. But when you go through something hard that takes over your life, all of the unimportant things by necessity fade away and all that's left are the things that really matter. It was amazing to me how little I could get accomplished, yet life didn't seem to care too much if my house was all that clean or if my kids were all that bathed. And I found I felt less guilty about things- frankly I just didn't have the energy to. So I didn't. I found it refreshing. 

Also, I re-learned how to pray. I learned that we shouldn't always pray to have our circumstances changed, but that we IN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES might change. This frees us up to be happy no matter what. This mindset is very empowering. 

TJB: How do you choose joy now? 

Celeste: I think my method for joy choosing is always changing a little depending on my current problems and circumstances. Right now, life is pretty swell. I do have to watch out for a few joy thieves though. Namely, I tend to be a little over-anxious about my daily to-do list, so I have to make sure I keep my priorities in check so that my joy is not dependent upon how much I accomplish in a day. I have to always remind myself to be mindful and take joy from the things that bring long-term joy: my children, helping others, my kind and handsome husband, gratitude. Also, that guilt thing I mentioned earlier is always trying to come in and steal my joy. Little stinker. 

Basically, I think remembering that joy has more to do with me and my attitude and less to do with my circumstances helps me to choose joy. 

(Update: my little man is one year old now and is just the happiest little guy. He brings an astonishing amount of joy into my life. I think my heart has grown three sizes since he came into the world).

TJB: Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us. Parenting has got to be one of the hardest jobs on the planet. Thanks for being one of the tough ones!

You can catch up with Celeste at the following places:

Blog // Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest

++ If you have any questions or comments, please share them below.

Join the conversation!

  1. "I just had to make sure I noticed them." Great post, ladies! How did I miss this?? Thanks for sharing about something that is often over-looked. So nice to hear you're on the other side of newborn fatigue, too!


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