Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Thought Hamster's Wheel

Have you ever watched an episode of Gilmore Girls?  The fast-talking mother-and-daughter duo basically vomit a steady stream of words about every imaginable subject, growing in intensity and speed as their offbeat imaginations and witty way with words stoke the fires of the ever-running train of thought.  That's about as close as I can come to describing what it is like inside my head every day.  Unless I am talking or reading, the Gilmore-esque voices never stop.

I say voices, plural, because there are frequently more than one.  There's always my voice.  And sometimes just that.  If, for example, I am internally monologuing, that's all I need.  Or if I am writing a blog post, which my mind is frequently willing to do with or without access to a keyboard.  But much of the time, my voice is joined by others.  Kirk's.  My mom's.  Really anybody with whom I spend time and have conversations.  Of course my brain is the one supplying the dialogue for both sides, (or all sides on a particularly multi-voiced day), which really just boils down to one truth: I talk to myself.  Internally.  All. The. Time.

Usually, these voices are pretty comforting.  I have never liked being alone, and thanks to the voices in my head, I really never am.  But lately, the voices have turned on me, unable to think normally, everyday irrational thoughts.  Instead, they have turned every thought-train destination into one of two options.  The next stop is always Worse-Case-Scenario-Town or Eternal-Perspective-Ville.

To be honest, I've gotten quite sick of both, and I have been doing my best to drown the voices.  I have kept busy and surrounded myself with friends.  I have read two books in the last week.  I watch Gilmore Girls whenever the voices start (because who could think over all that conversation!).  But sometimes, these avoidance techniques fail me, and I end up at the top of the footbridge over 6200 South looking at the mountains and completely absorbed in Eternal-Perspective-Ville.  And the only choice I have then is to open my figurative mouth (and literal laptop) and share what the voices are telling me in the hopes that the stupid little hamster up there who loves to run circles in my strings of words will stop stomping all over these particular ones and maybe my thoughts can once again find some peace.

I guess I can't really blame my thoughts for the physical location.  For that I have to admit that only 13 days post nearly running out of gas in near St. George, I pulled a typical Andrea - and ran out of gas.  There's a back story which I could tell in the hopes of sounding less scatterbrained and more responsible, but it would it no way add to the story I am really trying to tell here, so I will leave it at that.  On the way to pick Alex up from a birthday party in West Jordan, I ran out of gas on 6200 South and Redwood Road.

I called Kirk, though I knew he was just finishing up golfing in Tooele.  And then I started to walk.  I had hoped to find a gas station but clearly had headed in the wrong direction for that.  So instead, I used Google Maps on my phone to check the walking distance between my car and Al's party.  1.3 miles.  Totally doable.

Except, of course, for the fact that it was Valentines Day, and I was dressed up for our family date tradition.  I had opted for the cuter and less practical shoes and now found myself walking down 6200 South in strappy wedges.  Even worse, the presence of a sidewalk made me look nothing at all like the damsel-in-distress I felt like, and I knew no one would be stopping to offer assistance.  And my thoughts turned dark.

I immediately thought of the phrase that is always within arms distance in my mind: "tender mercies."  I have been trained to notice them throughout the recent family trials, and it has become almost like a comforting game to me to find the little mercies that bridged the fine line between unbearable and just barely bearable.  But this time, my thought monsters jumped to looking for the absence of these mercies.  What?!  My shoes, for example.  I had nearly picked a cute pair of cream colored canvas flats.  Perfectly practical for a mile walk.  Why hadn't I chosen those?  And then there was the issue of the jacket that I had gotten out of my car an hour before I left to get Alex, then accidentally left in the house when I left for the pick up.  Now I was walking down the street wrapped in my purple emergency blanket, unable to be grateful for that, because an hour earlier I had taken an actual jacket out of my car.  That jacket had been in there for a month!  Certainly no mercy there!

How about the fact that none of this was my fault in the first place.  If Kirk hadn't gone golfing, we would have been together in his car (my original plan), and I would not even have run out of gas.  But of course Kirk was golfing.  Skye had invited him.  And Skye just lost his baby girl.  So even if it is Valentines Day and we sort of had plans, of course Kirk was golfing.  Which I know sounds REALLY horrible and selfish, but I am telling you - these voices are bad news.  And once I'd gone there, it was easy to get stuck on the fact that it was the 14th.  Which meant it had been exactly one month since Tyler died.  And even though I have tried not to dwell on little stuff like that, I love numbers and I love patterns and how could I possibly NOT be completely aware of the fact that Wednesday had been exactly 4 weeks and the 14th was exactly one month and how long will I keep counting Wednesdays and will the 14th always sting a little and I wonder how big of a deal that is to Skye or to Michelle and should I call or should I let them have their space and why IF IT MATTERED SO MUCH THAT I NOT RUN OUT OF GAS 2 WEEKS AGO AM I NOW WALKING DOWN THE STREET IN STRAPPY SANDALS AND A PURPLE EMERGENCY BLANKET, 30 MINUTES LATE TO PICK UP MY SON FROM HIS PARTY ON THE ONE MONTH ANNIVERSARY OF TYLER'S DEATH?

That carried me the 10 blocks from Redwood to 27th.

The yelling voices carried me to the base of the footbridge.

Where I realized I had always wanted to walk through one of these.  Silly, I know, but I have actually always wanted to walk through this one of these. I grew up on 6200 South and always watched with envy those whose feet graced the concrete of what looked, for whatever reason, so cool to me.

And then it was like my thought train reached one of those cool spots on the railroad track that determines which direction the train will go.  And that dude who pulls the lever to make the decision pulled it as I started my ascent.  Why didn't Heavenly Father help me this time?  I thought about it now, instead of just yelling it in my mind.

Well, first of all, I didn't ask this time.  But similar to a child who doesn't ask his parents if he can go play when he already knows the answer, that may have been because I knew this wasn't the right time to ask.  I was in no danger.  And I had had ample opportunity to fill up and not be in this situation.  This was totally my fault, and I had all the tools at my disposal to fix it on my own.

But even if I had asked, I am fairly certain I would receive the same guidance I generally receive from my Heavenly Father.  "You're a smart girl.  Figure it out."

So then I started to wonder, "But why didn't He at least prompt me to choose the other shoes and to take my jacket?"

And then, as my thought train has been so wont to do, I ended up thinking about Tyler.  I hope it doesn't seem insensitive to unfold the rest of the allegory, because I in no way think that me walking down 6200 South is in any way comparable to the journey Skye and Michelle have ahead of them.  It isn't.  But these are the thoughts I thought.  And someday, when Skye and Michelle are standing at the top of the footbridge, I want to have written this down.

In the pre-mortal existence, I chose this world.  I chose it even knowing it would be filled with imperfections and pain.  I chose to have the experiences, good and bad, that come with it.  And there are times, like with my trip home from Vegas, that I can pray and the Lord will take the edge off the pain. But there are other times when the Lord needs for me to feel that pain in order for me to be able to return to live with Him again.  Because I ran out of gas, I found myself at the base of a footbridge across which I had always hoped to travel.  Would I have rather gotten there another way?  Who knows. I can picture a warm summer day with my kids when I randomly decided to pull over and walk across.  That would have been great!  But I've passed it how many times before and never stopped.  Maybe I never would have.

Would I have rather walked to it with appropriate shoes and a jacket?  Of course.  Would that have spared me the huge blister on my big toe and my barefoot walk back from the party?  Most likely.  What exactly did I gain?  I have no idea.  But as annoying as it was, it didn't stop me from getting to my destination.

Would I choose for Skye and Michelle to have to go through life without Tyler?  No, I absolutely would not.  But as hard as it is to say, I know they will have experiences now that would not have been possible before.  I don't know what those experiences will be, and I don't even yet know quite how to be grateful for them.  Losing Tyler is the hugest thing that has ever happened in my life, and even a month later, I don't feel like I've wrapped my head around it.  That's why the hamster in my head is working overtime.

But a bit of peace came to me, standing atop that footbridge and looking out at the beautiful mountains.  It will come.  Right now, I'm still somewhere on the sidewalk railing emotionally at the word.  But at some point, I'll reach a footbridge.  And my thoughts will shift.  At some moment I will stand atop the spiritual and emotional equivalent of that footbridge, and I will feel okay.

And I thought my allegory stopped there.

Until Alex and I reached the footbridge from the other side together.  I had told him we were going on an adventure.  I told him that halfway through we would cross a bridge - the best part of the journey.  We approached, hand in hand, and singing the African-American Spirituals he has been learning in class.

We made it to the top of the bridge when we spotted them: Adam and Dylan had come with Kirk to rescue us.  Adam and Dylan wanted to cross the footbridge, too.  They joined us, breathless, and Dylan shouted, "I've always wanted to walk on one of these!"  Because of an unpleasant experience that the Lord let me have, I stood atop a footbridge with all three of my sons and listened to them chatter about how they had always wanted this experience.

A blister and a silly blanket and a 2 mile walk were certainly worth all of that.

Which just makes me wonder what blessings the Lord has in store for Skye and Michelle.

And perhaps now my thought hamster can find another thought on which to spin.


Melissa said...

Here's one more mercy for you. You wouldn't have had the chance to share these thoughts if you had remembered we live on 70th Redwood. I could have rescued you in less than 5 minutes. I love your thoughts about this though. I wish I could see the positive things so quickly when I'm struggling, but I usually take a while to come to the happy conclusion.