It was Pioneer Day this week–July 24th–the day the pioneers first reached the Salt Lake Valley and Brigham Young announced that it was the place.
So, I reflected on the pioneers because they are awe inspiring and they help me, even though I am not related.
I love the pioneers. I believe that all those who live to sacrifice whatever it takes for a good cause have a bond with them.
The Mormon pioneers are known for crossing the great expanse of the continent–and there is a particularly difficult part of the journey known as “Rocky Ridge” near the end. President Faust explains it this way:
We continued to travel up over Rocky Ridge, 7,300 feet high. This is the highest spot on the Mormon Trail. The two-mile ascension to Rocky Ridge gains over 700 feet in altitude. It was very difficult for all of the pioneers to travel over Rocky Ridge. It was particularly agonizing for the members of the Willie Handcart Company, who struggled over that ridge in the fall of 1856 in a blizzard. Many had worn-out shoes, and the sharp rocks caused their feet to bleed, leaving a trail of blood in the snow.
Rocky Ridge was, especially for the members of the Willie Handcart Company, too much. It was just beyond impossible.
The rescue came about that time, although they still had a few hundred more miles to go to reach Salt Lake. So, the rescue came but it was still hard for a while longer.
I have never liked to compare myself with those people or anyone who has faced intense, extreme suffering like that, because I don’t think I have suffered nearly as much as they have.
But, I do think, in some small way (or even in a medium sized way), we all face our own Rocky Ridge.
I faced mine this week.
And, it’s not like I just woke up one day and there it was–Rocky Ridge in my front yard. No, I’ve been walking toward it for a thousand miles.
And, I imagine the pioneers thought that things were tough along the way. I imagine that at the Sweetwater and Martin’s Cove they thought,
There is no way this could get any harder. I am so tired and I am about to give up. There has got to be an end right now. I can’t go on. I just can’t.
And then, there was Rocky Ridge.
And that’s when it was just ridiculous.
“Are you kidding me, Heaven? Because, I’ve been trying to do everything right, here. I mean, everything. You’ve got to be kidding me.”
And then there is this giant rock and a blizzard and no food and death and grief and bitter, angry, cold wind and miles and miles of empty, uncaring nothingness.
And I have done my very best to listen.
Yes, I know I completely blew it on so many things, but it wasn’t because I was trying to on purpose. I was actually doing my best. That was really my best effort.
Yes, I thought I knew what I was doing when I said I could tackle the trail. I was zealous and happy and singing and…
Well, no one told me that choosing Christ and His plan would be…
And that it would sometimes leave me sobbing in the night feeling like I was completely deserted.
No one told me that being a mother could be unrewarding, irritating, sad, mind numbing or mentally debilitating.
No one mentioned that.
Yes, it is amazing and fantastic and wonderful and beautiful, but it is excruciatingly wonderful and painfully beautiful.
And sometimes overwhelmingly discouraging.
It’s Rocky Ridge.
And maybe it’s not for everyone. Maybe there are some women who never experience the excruciating side of motherhood–but for me, it has been a dance between tragedy and perfect bliss and everything in between.
I wouldn’t trade it for any other experience–it is what I was made for and it is a cause worth living and dying for, but it takes everything I have some days to keep going.
And so, this week I got to Rocky Ridge. Before, I had been feeling better and thinking,
“Okay, I am going to be alright! Huzzah! Hooray for getting better! I can go the last 300 miles!”
And then it started snowing and then the snow turned into a blizzard and then I saw in the distance my Rocky Ridge.
And then, there it was in real life. Huge.
All I could think is:
There is no way I can do this.
The mental exhaustion from dealing with all of this recovery and everything just left me with nothing left.
Not a drop. I just stood there staring at Rocky Ridge with tears in my eyes thinking
I refuse to go further. There is no way.
I thought about how much harder a mental Rocky Ridge is than a physical one…how postpartum depression and anxiety are so much more difficult to overcome than climbing a physical mountain…how I admire women who can overcome those mental Rocky Ridges…how I wonder if I can, because sometimes not being able to walk or pick up my baby like a regular mom is discouraging.
And I just cried and cried and thought that if tears could get me up Rocky Ridge I would have been over it by now.
And I wondered why no one ever tells you that being a mom can be so sad.
And I wanted to run away from everything, but I knew I couldn’t. Because I am the kind of person who will conquer or die.
(I’m just that way. Also, I can’t run right now. I guess I could try to limp away…. 🙂 )
I thought about how I could get out of climbing my mountain. But all my creativity couldn’t think of a way around it.
There it was.
And here were my problems:
I couldn’t walk.
I couldn’t feel my left side.
I couldn’t feel my face.
I couldn’t hold my baby.
I couldn’t make gourmet dinners.
I couldn’t run a marathon.
I couldn’t be thin and look gorgeous to the general public.
I had spent 16 years being pregnant and nursing waiting for the day when I could do all the things I couldn’t do while pregnant and nursing only to get to this day to be left disabled by nearly dying from THE SMeE!!!!!
I felt blecky.
I had a zit on my nose.
The kids needed to go to the dentist.
And it went on and on until I was drowning in a sea of things that I haven’t been able to do and was convinced I would never be able to do and it felt like it would never end and…
I had to stop myself. I prayed for help. I actually needed some serious help. I told my husband,
I need a rescue party. Like Rocky Ridge. I’ll never make it. Ask God what you can say to me to help me, because I don’t want to hear what you have to say to me, I want to know what He has to say to me, and I’m hoping you can find that out for me.
And my wonderful husband did. He was my rescue party. He saved me. He prayed and told me what God wanted to tell me.
First of all, he made me go to bed. I had, of course, overdone it last week, and was exhausted and in a lot of pain and didn’t realize it. I was actually really, really sick but couldn’t tell because I was over-sick.
Secondly, he talked to my doctor and found out that some of my billions of blood tests came back showing I am both severely (as in below severely) Vitamin D and B deficient and so we are fixing that.
Also, he said I was beautiful.
And he meant it.
And then, he reached out and grabbed my hand (oh, how I love John!) and told me we would face Rocky Ridge together and that I didn’t have to be alone, and that even though he couldn’t understand what it would be like to go through this, he would block the wind and hold me close and keep me from stumbling along the way.
And, I will make it. I just need to remember that I can’t climb it all at once.
One step at a time.
And to remember that irony is part of the process. Yes, it is ironic that I waited all this time to do things only to be faced with yet another thing. But, that’s okay. I can face it, and I can overcome it! I can!
I am not alone. Even if no one else is with me, God is. He knows. Even in the midst of the unfairness and bitterness, He knows. And, you know, He knows you, too. If you are staring at Rocky Ridge, don’t give up. He knows you, too. Even if you don’t have a mortal rescue party, there are angels.
I know there are angels.
And there is me. I am somewhere around there, limping along, looking incredibly un-athletic climbing Rocky Ridge along with you.
And there are the other women who read this blog.
And we all love you, too.
We really are in this together.
It’s a lie to think you are alone.
You’re not the only mom that feels like it’s too much. Like it’s indescribably difficult and too hard and lonely and painful and scary. And feeling that way temporarily doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you a mom who is facing Rocky Ridge. But you’ll get to the top. You’ll get to the top just like the rest of us.
We are here! We are here!
We’re all on Rocky Ridge together. And we’re going to make it, ladies! We’re going to get to the top and I’m going to make lemon infused water and we’re going to have a lovely time….and we’re going to drink in the sky and laugh and sing together.
Remember that while you are climbing. Somewhere I’m there. And we’re going to enjoy the view from the top. Because it’s worth it when you get to the top.
The view from the top is worth it. Totally worth it. Worth everything. I promise.