Sunday, March 24, 2013

Discouragement

I had a fabulous Young Women's President, Chris John. She served as Young Women's President for much of her adult life...something like 12 or 15 years, in two different wards. She was my Young Women's President nearly the whole time I was in Young Women's. She was released when I was a Laurel and a new President was called, and she was also wonderful. I can remember Sister John saying several times that she had found that often she became very discouraged right before something new and wonderful ocurred in her life. She had found that if she could recognize discouragement as one of Satan's tools and turn to the Lord at those times, then inevitably some new blessing or opportunity seemed to come to her. It was as if Satan was trying to prevent her from receiving that blessing by attempting to get her to give up. That has helped me a number of times throughout my life. I do believe that discouragement is a tool of Satan's, and as our Bishop has said, when things are hard, it is up to us to decide if we will turn to the Lord or turn away from Him.

This past week was hard. It was very hard, and I became very discouraged. On Tuesday, my daughters had parent teacher conferences. Michelle is struggling a bit in math and a little bit in Spanish reading. She's always been a very solid student, and she told me that she is trying really hard and it is still hard. School always came so easy to me, and while I am quite good at helping struggling students, my emotions get too involved when it is my own child. This has been humbling. She is not doing terribly, but she isn't doing as well as she would like.

Then on Wednesday I was told that I will be moving grade levels. I was worried and disappointed, but still felt not too terrible on Wednesday.

But then Thursday, we went to violin lessons. Michelle has worked so hard to prepare for violin federation. She has been practicing and practicing and has truly done her best. I knew she really could use a few more days, but she's tried so hard and I was proud of her. When we went to lessons, her teacher said she didn't seem ready enough and that she wasn't sure she should perform. She said Michelle would have to go home that night and practice really hard and practice really hard on Friday and then I would decide if she was ready. By this point in the week, I was not feeling well (bad cold) and I was exhausted physically and emotionally. Michelle cried in the car on the way home from violin...she felt like she wasn't good enough at school, she wasn't good enough at violin, she just wasn't good enough. That absolutely broke my heart. And it put a lot of pressure on me to decide whether she was ready for the performance. I broke down on Thursday night. I asked my family to pray for Michelle, and they did (for which I am so thankful!) I cried as I talked to Alfredo, I cried as I talked to my mom and stepdad. Then as I was getting the girls ready for bed, one of my children was being rather annoying and whiny. I was at my emotional limits and I snapped at her, telling her to stop it, damn it. I don't usually use that kind of language. Alfredo came in the bathroom and told me to take a break. I didn't mean to swear or get angry, and I immediately began to cry. The combination of me swearing and crying really worried my children. I quickly got my feelings under control, put them to bed, after many apologies and hugs and expressions of love, I went to bed shortly after. But I tossed and turned all night.

I was unsure whether to have Michelle perform. She wasn't quite ready and I knew she would make mistakes in front of the judges. Which might lead to her having a rating less than "superior". And her self-esteem seemed quite shaken, so I was unsure how she would react to that. I also knew that she has worked VERY, VERY hard to get ready and it was through no fault of hers that she wasn't quite ready. She had given it her all. And it seemed a shame to decide not to perform the night before just because she wasn't going to be perfect. I went to school feeling very discouraged and unsure. I made it through the day, and then talked to a couple of coworkers. Through tears, I explained my feelings and got their advice and love and support. They hugged me and listened and empathized and gave some good advice. Ultimately, I decided that Michelle should decide what she wanted to do. So we practiced some more when we got home and I knew she was close to being ready. So I talked to her about how proud I was of her efforts and that I thought she could perform, but that it was up to her. I explained that in my eyes, even if she didn't get a superior, that was okay and she should feel good because she knew she had worked hard. I talked about how much she's learned in just 2 years. I talked about how one rating this year didn't mean that much...that she would perform in front of people she would probably never see again and that even if she got "excellent" instead of superior, we would all be proud of her. Then I listened. She took the decision seriously, telling me why she wanted to perform and why she didn't. And ultimately, she decided to perform. By Friday afternoon, I was so physically and emotionally exhausted and so discouraged. I felt like as a teacher, I should be able to help my child be successful in school and felt like I wasn't being the kind of mom I wanted to be. I was overwhelmed by the thought of teaching a new grade level and I was discouraged that I couldn't seem to focus. I was also very grateful for kind and caring family members and friends who listened, let me cry on their shoulders and offered to help. I slept very poorly Friday night. I prayed and prayed for Michelle.

Saturday morning came and we got ready and headed to the U for the performance. I had to stay all morning because I was asked to be a room supervisor. Michelle went very first, at 8 A.M. Michelle was nervous and she did make some mistakes, but she did the best she could and she kept going even when she made mistakes. Since I was the room supervisor, I was collecting the judging sheets, and filling out the certificates. I was so happy when I was able to write "superior" on Michelle's certificate...but honestly, I would have been just as proud if she had received an "excellent" or "fair". I was proud of her for having the courage to perform even though she knew she would most likely make some mistakes. I was proud of her for working so hard and not giving up. And ultimately, I knew that her ranking at this one Federation didn't really matter, so long as it didn't make her feel discouraged and want to quit. This was one day in her young life and wouldn't have too much bearing on her future other than to let her know that she had courage and determination. Ultimately, it wasn't the ranking I was really worried about but just how it would affect her emotionally. She seemed so discouraged on Thursday, and I didn't want her to feel bad about herself.

I love this quote from Sheri Dew's book No Doubt About It. "Clearly, Satan wants us to see ourselves as the world sees us, not as the Lord sees us, because the world's mirror, like a circus mirror in which a five-foot, ten-inch woman appears two feet tall, distorts and minimizes us. Satan tells us wer'e not good enough. Not smart enough. Not thin enough. Not cute enough. Not clever enough. Not anything enough. And that is a big, fat, devilish lie. He wants us to believe that there is no status or significance in being a mother. That is a lie--and an evil lie. He wants us to believe that the influence of women is inheritently inferior. And that is a lie....We will never be happy or feel peace; we will never deal with life's ambiguities; we will never live up to who we are as women of God until we overcome our mortal identity crisis by understanding who we are, who we have always been, and who we may become." (page 46-47)

I fell into his trap this week. I began feeling like a failure as a parent (and I did make some mistakes!) and felt overwhelmed and discouraged. I was wise enough to know that a big part of it was that I was so tired and not feeling well, and I said to two coworkers that I knew I would be okay...I just wanted Saturday to be over and to get some rest and recharge. But I am so thankful to know, or to be learning, who I am and who I have always been and who I am meant to be. I am thankful for the knowledge that it is developing charity that makes us truly beautiful. That I am a child of God who loves me, and that I am trying to become who I have always been meant to be. I try to be positive, but I'm not always. I try to feel the love of the Lord in my life, but I don't always. I am grateful that when I get discouraged, I have so many caring people that are there to support me. One of my coworkers and dearest friends, Brenda, told me earlier this week that she prays for me almost daily because she knows I have so many responsibilities. She is not a member of my church, but I am thankful for her friendship, love, support and prayers. I could not ask for a better or truer friend. Polly, the other second grade teacher, also offered love and support and advice. I love these women as well as so many other women (and men) that are true friends and great supporters. I am blessed to be surrounded by great friends and a wonderful family.