Monday, August 5, 2019

I am not dead (in case you wondered why I haven't written in so long)

Life has a way of getting away from us. Blogs are no different. Honestly, I don't like writing on my blog just to stay in your face. I want to say something that matters, at least to me. And for the last, well, at least year, I haven't been putting my energy into writing.

Oh don't misunderstand. I love to write and am planning on publishing this year(More to come about that later), but from June of last year to June of this year, my time was consumed with something entirely different.

You see, as part of my faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints, we all take turns sharing responsibility for the needs of our congregation. Some jobs, or callings as we refer to them in the church, are relatively small and not as time consuming. Others, like the calling I was given last year, was lots of responsibility and time. Basically, I was responsible to care for and know the needs of all the women in my congregation. This job is called being the Relief Society President, and it was a remarkable, and really tough experience. In fact, I wrote down many of my experiences in a book I'm calling of Succulents and Sisters. Typically, I don't write about religious content, but it was such a unique experience that I wanted to record the stories. Also, I learned to love, love, love growing succulents.

I'm not sure if I will ever publish the book, but wanted to share with you, my readers and friends, a peek into the book, so I'm going to publish the first chapter on my blog tonight. Those of you who are of my faith might understand a little more, but those of you who are not but have ever felt overwhelmed by something, will appreciate it too. I'll also throw up some pics of my succulent creations.
And, in my next post, I'll get you guys all caught up on what I'm writing now. Here's the first chapter to Of Succulents and Sisters

Chapter 1 

A Reality Check

 I sit in my dining room looking around. Two large windows and a sliding glass door frame the space painted a soothing shade of pale blue. Lining both windowsills are small black plastic containers, and in the containers, fragile plants grow. Some are as small as a child’s fingernail, while others have grown up a few inches, stretching out toward the light with their thin stems and miniature leaves.  Then, beneath the windowsills low metal shelves are filled to the edges with larger, decorative ceramic containers growing succulents in groups of threes. Some of my favorite containers are tea pots and oversized mugs in blue or red. Each container is unique from the salsa dish to the distressed wooden boat. All from local thrift stores, picked out painstakingly one at a time. Beyond the sliding glass door, I see out onto my covered patio. The Arizona heat licks at the corners of the cement but the sturdy stucco overhang protects more of my handiwork. Succulents. Lots of succulents in containers, clustered on tables and most of all on a set of rolling metal shelves, in rain gutters, capped off and turned planters by my dear husband. I stare, noting that over the course of a year, I’d gathered every variation of succulents that I could get my hands on. Aloe Vera, Jade Plant, Burro’s tail cascading over the edge of a small white pot, and rose-like Echeveria growing next to Hen and Chick plants just to name a few. And beyond the patio, there are a few more succulent creations. Collections I put together just to enjoy out in my yard, tucked under trees and in cooler corners where the hot Arizona sun can’t burn them.  


It’s one of those moments, where you stop long enough to look at your life and see how something so small has grown, flourished… and then taken over. And, in this moment, I pose a question to myself, how did this happen?

The answer was easy. It all started on the night that my Bishop (we’ll call him Bishop X) wanted to drop by.


Now you all know that a Bishop doesn’t just “drop by” especially when your ward has just been split and lots of callings need to be filled. This was the state of my ward, and I knew my Bishop was coming on the Lord’s errand that fateful night. The only mystery was what would he ask me to do? Nursery? That comes with a built-in snack. Primary? Those wild things were always fun to teach. Maybe gospel doctrine? A girl could dream, since it was my favorite calling. No. The Lord had a different plan, and as Bishop sat on the large leather sectional in my family room, explaining his thoughts, I realized things were about to go sideways in my world.

Let me take a second to say that I do not envy the Bishop. He is the messenger and we all know the old saying about the messenger getting shot, or something like that. Either way, Bishop X was in the line of fire.  

So, Bishop X launched into a story about how he’d been to the temple a few months before the ward boundaries had been changed, praying about several callings. At that time, he was not praying about the calling I was about to be extended. As he sat in the reverence of that holy house, he received a clear impression that I was to be called as a Relief Society President. At this point, Bishop X knew a ward split was coming. We all did. We’d completely outgrown our building and new families were moving in every week. With that in mind, it made no sense to change the relief society president, so Bishop X filed away this particular inspiration in whatever place Bishops tuck away things to deal with later. Let me state that while he is telling me this story, his face shows his unmasked surprise at the inspiration he’d received. Wide eyes, body leaning forward, hands open and lifted. I could practically hear his thoughts at the time he was receiving this prompting.
Sister Carling? Are you sure Lord?
After all, Bishop X lived down the street from me. He’d seen me teach gospel doctrine and knew I was a little out of the box in my approach to teaching, and well everything.
Anyway, Bishop X continued his story. After the ward split and new boundaries were drawn, he’d gone back to the temple with another list of names to pray about for the calling of Relief Society President and was told again that I was the person that should be called. Again, he wore a shocked expression.  Shocked didn’t begin to describe my feelings which had whipped themselves into a panicked frenzy in a matter of minutes, and now were rising in my throat like suffocating panic. You see, I’ve dealt with clinical depression since my early thirties which has morphed into some fairly intense anxiety and depression in the last few years. And, in the last six months, I had just gotten it under control. This entailed cutting way back on publishing new books and simplifying my life to a manageable pace. Like so many others, I was learning to live with an ailment that no can see, but in the last few months, I’d found a moment of balance and peace.
Soon the overwhelming emotions reached my eyes and I began to cry, which is unusual for me. I’m not the cry-at-the-drop-of-a- hat-kind-of-girl. There can be an entire room of weeping sisters, and I’d be the one with dry eyes.
At the same time Bishop X’s entire demeanor sagged, and the bewildered look he’d worn earlier turned to a look of uncertainty. My mind was filled with a torrent of chaotic and fearful thoughts. My heart raced and finally, I couldn’t take the overwhelming barrage of emotions anymore.
“Bishop,” I said. “You’re upsetting me. You need to go home.”                                                                                      
My husband, who has been in bishoprics before visibly cringed, probably thinking of our poor Bishop just trying to do his job.

As Bishop X walked to the front door, I trailed behind him.

“You don’t understand.” I said. “I just got my anxiety under control.”

Tears falling.

“I don’t do anything halfway.” I rambled. My husband followed me, so now we look like little ducklings following the leader.   

“I was raised by my father! His idea of d├ęcor was stereo wires pinned to the wall for better reception.”

More tears.  

“I don’t even like most women.”

At the door, Bishop slipped out without me saying the one thing he needed to hear, that I would accept the calling, or not. I’ve envisioned since that time, the Bishop going home and telling his wife that they may need to move because there was a crazy person living on their street. By the next day, I was still wracked with fear, but I mustered my faith and contacted the Bishop. I would do my best, I told him. Mostly, I was thinking that I would try not to break the church by being in a position of so much responsibility, or inadvertently hurt the women by my own ineptitude. As it had been from the moment the Bishop extended the calling, unquenchable tension riddled my body and I began the process of figuring out how I was going to survive what lay ahead.


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