That was a rough spell wasn't it? But we made it through and I'm proud of you, and truthfully I'm more than a little relieved.
That was one of the toughest Marchs on record. Now that we are through it and Spring is firmly rooted in your heart I wanted to write you a little love note. Ok, it's a long love note, I'm a bit wordy. But you know that already.
First off, you know that oft quoted phrase, "this too shall pass"? Try to remember that next time around. Maybe write yourself a little note, like the rest of the notes I write yourself. Also, now that you are feeling yourself again you can be reassured that you are not your struggle.
You are not your anxiety. You are not your insecurity. Those are things you experience, ebbing and flowing with season and situation, but they do not define you. But this winter, oh the burden of those was great, was it not?
By the end of the winter you learned some fabulous tricks and truths that would have helped a little earlier on. That's why I'm writing you this letter. Tuck it away somewhere safe and then read it next winter. Once in January will probably suffice, and a couple times in February will do. But I'm guessing that by the end of March the edges of the letter will be worn from reading.
Honey, you read this letter as often as you need to during that dark and difficult month. And maybe the month won't be so dark and difficult after all.
So, Renee, one of the things you learned about yourself this winter is that anxiety can cripple you. Some people battle weight and other health issues, your health struggle is with your mind. Anxiety and negative thought patterns may be a weakness, but that is not a condemnation or weight you must bear.
Now that you know what's going on, you know how to deal with it.
You are a thinking person, more than a feeling person (in the personality typing sense). You love to order the world in your mind, to bring control to the chaos. Most of the time you thrive doing that. Ordering, sorting, and classifying thoughts. Giving each its due and putting it into place.
This winter you learned there are some thoughts that don't deserve your attention. They don't need to be sorted, organized, or classified. In fact there are many thoughts that assalt you in a day that don't deserve the time it took you to read this sentence.
When you dwell on those thoughts, those fears, those insecurities, you give them power Hon. I know you don't mean to. You think, "I just need to follow this train of thought to know if it's true, to know where it belongs, to put it in its box." You can't do that.
When you are feeling well you can indulge more in mental gymnastics that cause you to question and doubt. There are times you are strong enough for that. Winter is not that time. And there are some thoughts that you need never open the door to. Thoughts about your worth being one example. You need never go down a thought trail to establish your worth, or your strength, or your identity in Christ, your provision or your freedom. Let's just be done with that.
The mantra that you created was a great idea. When these doubts creep into your mind, you shut them down Sister with the truth. If you have to speak it out loud, you do that; but Love, do not listen to those lies. They do not deserve your attention. Ever.
I know you don't like labels but finally naming your mental suffering, in part, as Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a healing step, not a hindering step. This is not a diagnosis so much as a direction. Naming your winter despondency for what it is will help you face next year with the right tools.
Let's face it Love, you live in a northern climate (we can't help where we're born and Canada is better than a lot of places to end up!), and getting through winter is not for the feint of heart. Lucky you! You are not feint of heart. You are a strong woman.
Don't forget this summer to buy a sunlamp and start using it in the fall. Your regular morning rising will be a benefit to you in this regard as you spend time each day "soaking in the rays".
Tanning last month was a stop gap measure but you may want to do that again next winter, but maybe you should look into safe tanning practices first. This is new to you and I'm proud of you for getting over your "au natural" hang ups to give this a try. Once you got over your fear of lying in that small space you certainly did enjoy the warmth and the mental boost it gave you.
Also, don't forget to keep taking your vitamins and fish oil (and of course keep eating your greens, but I don't need to remind you of that). These supplements are worth the cost Hon. Your health matters, don't scrimp here.
And speaking of your health, who knew that daily exercise made such a difference. I know you are used to hiking and skiing regularly but Love, you need the outdoors, the woods, and heart pumping exercise every day.
And as you've learned from doing this now for over a month (yay you!) the house does not fall apart and the schooling does not stop; in fact nothing suffers when you exercise every day. But a lot suffers when you don't.
You have the freedom in your days to exercise whenever you want so take that freedom sister! Those morning walks in the woods and runs through the mud, as winter turns to spring, are more necessary than you ever imagined for your mental health. Your mom was right.
You know what was the best gift this winter? Without a doubt the best gift was the people in your life. Aren't the people in your life wonderful?
Let's start with your family. I know you like to "have it all together" and be the mom in charge. The mom who is upbeat, happy, and energized. But when you can't be that because you are suffering, like the time your grandmother died and then with your struggles this past winter, have you noticed how your family rallies around? They can take care of you once in awhile. You don't have to always "have it together".
Love, you have poured years of your life and your very heart and soul into your children. You have been rooted in God's grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit, day in and day out. You have drawn from this rich and unsurpassed well of blessing to pour love, belonging, and rootedness into your children. You have stretched in ways you didn't think possible to love, nurture and educate these children. You are not perfect, and they know that. But just as you love your children unconditionally in spite of their imperfections - they love you back, the same way!
And when you can't be everything you want to be, and everything you know you are capable of being (isn't that the most frustrating part!) all those years of training, teaching, patience, love and understanding - they carry the load.
Love, the foundation you've already laid is secure. By God's grace you and Damien have done well, and though you're not done this parenting journey, you have an amazingly close relationship with your kids. A bad month is not going to change that.
You are a fabulous mother. And I know how fiercely proud you are of your children, you have every right to be. They were God's gift to you and you have stewarded that responsibility well.
And when you married Damien, you picked well. God honors your commitment to your husband, how you support and respect him. Damien loves you and by God's grace he provides for your family. Hon, you can rest in that. You are blessed woman and when your husband carries you, let him. And know that your time will come to do the carrying. But don't be scared, God will give you the strength when you need it.
You have some amazing friends and I know you don't see them very much, seeing as your closest friends don't live in your province, but they are there for you. Your warrior sisters in Maine are one of God's gifts to you. So is Krista in Alberta. Have you stopped to consider how much God loves you and takes care of you by providing friends? And yes, you have to work at friendships. And sometimes in the past you thought the work and the vulnerability wasn't worth it. I'm glad you are learning that it is worth it.
And remember that time last month you broke down on the ski hill? Sobbing into the arms of a local friend who asked innocently enough "ca va bien?" I was good to be honest with her. Her experience and wisdom, given with such love and compassion, was again, God's gift to you.
I know you want to have it all together but when you don't you learn so much for other people.
Your vulnerability and wholeheartedness scares you sometimes. You feel raw and open; you wish you could compartmentalize your life a bit better so you could crank out work projects in spite of your emotions.
Love, you are not wired this way. You are who you are. Your vulnerability and wholehearted, integrated living is your strength, not your weakness. And I have complete faith that you will figure out, as you journey forward, how to do the work you want to do, in a way that honors who you are.
I know one of the hardest parts of not being at the top of your game last month was shelving your ecourse plans. A decision you made looking realistically at what fills your well; what drains your well; and how much time, mental, and creativity energy you have to give to your work right now. It was the right decision, for right now.
It turns out you don't have a lot of time or energy right now to give to your "work in the world", as you like to call it (though you do realize that the work you do in your home, is in the world, right?)
Winter is a struggle for you. Let's face the facts here. You miss the colors and vibrancy of summer. You miss living green plants. You miss garden vegetables. You miss the parts of yourself that are alive during summer.
You are a vibrant, bold and rich woman - high summer seems to be the natural expression of your energy. It's no wonder that winter and the tail end of winter especially drains you.
You can find your own creative work path. I know; you have so much you want to share with other women, mothers, homeschoolers, and families. You have experienced the richness of a freedom education lifestyle, of living your interests and your dreams.
You have seen how families struggle under unrealistic expectations and society pressures and what that does to compromise family life and to deflate and defeat big dreaming and living. You have a message to share Renee and the integrity of actually living a family life in that freedom to back up that message.
But I think we learned that winter might not be the best season for you to move those ideas forward. At least this winter wasn't. And that's ok.
I'm not sure when is the right season for you and I know you felt bad about not pushing through this resistance. All those books and blog posts you're read in the past about pushing through hard things. They make it sound like you just "gotta do the work". But you're a hard worker so I know you've wondered, "why can't I just do this? What is wrong with me?"
You and I have talked a lot about this and I will tell you again Love, there is nothing wrong with you. There are seasons in our lives for pushing and seasons for resting. Seasons for turning in and seasons for turning out. Seasons for cranking out and producing and seasons for caring for our souls.
The message isn't going anywhere. Your family, which is your resume of sorts and the evidence of your work and ideas - will still be there when the time is right to push through. But right now Love, you need to rest and rejuvenation. You need to enjoy the season unfolding before you.
You had a hard winter and your work is to be well. And of course your work, as always, is nourishing, encouraging, and teaching in your home. First and foremost. It's your mission. You know the work you gotta do. And you know you can do it. You are not lazy. You are not less than. You are not missing the boat. You are being faithful with what is right in front of you.
Speaking of your mission statement Sweetheart, remember the part about beauty? You feel called to create and share beauty. You keep doing that, with your whole heart. Sometimes that is expressed in your home. All those instagrams you are taking of beautiful nooks and life moments, keep doing it. Stop, notice, and share - it fills your well.
And when you don't have any words to write, like the way you felt for most of March, that's ok. Your creative gifts are not going to disappear because you have a hard month. I know you find March as about inspiring to photograph as a tub drain. I'm not sure what to say about that, except that spring does come. Maybe you need to buy flowers every week next March. You are not defined by your photography and if your camera is unused for weeks you are still a creative, beauty seeking person.
Not just that, you're actually physically beautiful. I know you've always thought of yourself in the cute category but as you get older I think of you as beautiful, a matured cute. And your hair! Renee you have such gorgeous curls. Isn't it fun to have longer hair again? A pain some days also, but mostly wonderful.
Love your beauty Renee. Live your beauty. There is something electric about a woman who radiants her inner beauty. Don't be afraid of that.
You're an extravert. You're a teensy bit introverted but definitely more extraverted. You need conversation, engagements and action with people.
That was another thing you learned this winter, perhaps the hard way.
You are an adventurous soul and you choose to move to a Francophone province, where it is admittedly difficult for you to communicate, en francais. But most people here do speak English, don't be ashamed you don't speak French very well yet. Don't let your pride or your desire to please people get in the way.
Keep learning, keep trying, keep "putting yourself out there". But in the meantime girl - you gotta make sure you are talking regularly to people in English. Friends on the phone and friends in your community, you need regular and frequent conversation with people.
I know last month was hard and you would have bypassed the more difficult moments if you could have. But it was in these moments that you learned some of the most important lessons of this difficult time.
You learned how to have compassion for yourself. You learned how to speak the truth.
When you don't have answers for things, when you are doubting yourself, when you feel "not on top of your game", when you are laid low, there is nothing else for it but compassion. Beating yourself up does not make the situation better.
The day will come and it has already, firmly planted as I am the sun and spring thaw of late April, when you can look at the situation and yourself more critically. You will be strong enough again to do that. But until that time you need only compassion for yourself. Just as you would have compassion for your children when they are struggling.
Really, treat your heart and your tender soul with the same love you lavish on your children. Believe in yourself they way you believe in them.
You are so beautiful. So loved. So strong. So talented and gifted. You are provided for. You are rooted in love. How could you think anything else?
I know why you are tempted to think otherwise. There is an enemy of your soul and sometimes you forget and you let your guard down. I don't blame you (we need to be done with blame, once and for all). We live in a society that doesn't believe the same things we do and sometimes we lose sight of the truth ourselves. That's ok. We found it again.
You are in control of your mind Love. When the negative self talk track starts and the outright lies are bombarding you, you need to fight. Now. You fight with truth. The truth of who you are.
Keep reading your Bible every morning and writing encouraging words for yourself to read throughout the day. Recognize the lies and replace them with truth.
I should wrap it up here. If nothing else, remember you are loved and this too shall pass. Treat yourself kindly Hon. Be exactly who you are and don't doubt your strength or courage. The time you spend investing in relationship with your family and friends, that's the best investment of all. Relationships are what support us. And when you are strong again you will do the supporting, we all take our turn.