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03/18/2006: "Lines (redux)"




It's a revamped and yet seemingly more personal and open essay than the original draft.

Enjoy, and thanks to those who've stopped by so far. Sarebear, you are not alone.

By: Téa - March 18, 2006
There are lines everywhere.
They exist to establish boundaries and order, with the intent to shape behavior.

Paraphrasing They Might Be Giants, all lines lead to No! No! No!

Paraphrasing Spencer W. Kimball, staying within the lines leads to safety & peace.

I have my own passel of internal lines. Some areas have crisp, brightly marked lines, some have fuzzy or crooked lines; some areas have a little sign “line coming here, soon!”

I agree with JJ. Rousseau that freedom and happiness lie within adherence to prescriptions/proscriptions we set for ourselves, and misery and oppression come from disregarding the demarcations.

My ability to stay within the lines is not a given constant. An occasional bipolar fog obscures the mental landscape, and I generally don’t recognize that I’ve crossed into the danger zone until the ground drops out from under me.
“How did that happen?”
“Why did I do that?”
“I told myself I would never do that again”

Were it not for my family responsibilities, this could be a largely unnoticed phenomenon. No one, no wife–certainly no mother– is an island. With each crash I drag everyone else down with me. Knowing others suffer because of me, I leap to the conclusion that they would all be better off without me.
No, no, they protest, but I’m not so sure. They would be better off without the roller coaster ride—they can’t argue with that. Yet it’s also true that when I’m well, there’s no one else who could take my place.

How can I reconcile these two statements? Another line, me thinks.

I want to draw the line at the point of diminishing returns. This is the point where additional effort or investment in an endeavor will not yield correspondingly increasing results.

This is where I wax philosophical about moments of waning reality. If I cross the lines that I would normally not cross because I am less myself during those times, am I supposed to readily forgive myself for those trespasses against myself and family? Where do I draw the line between allowing me to forgive myself and remembering the things I’ve done to try to protect my family from what I may do in the future—when both things are necessary for future happiness and sanity? Since lines that work for me 95% of the time fail the other 5% does it mean that I’m expecting too much of myself?

On the one hand, it’s easy to keep up the fight, striving to change. On the other, I could easily surmise that resistance is futile.

So, here I am in my plight. I would liken it to Sisyphus, and his task to roll the boulder up the mountain. My quest to develop the potential within my self and my family depends upon establishing stability within my self and home in spite of the chaos and turmoil occasionally wreaked by bipolar episodes [the equivalent of gravity and the boulder working together to destroy what I strive to create the rest of the time]. Albert Camus, in his Myth of Sisyphus, posits that even in that struggle “One must imagine Sisyphus happy”.

Yet, I don’t feel particularly joyful trudging back down the hill or starting over again. If the plan for me involves improvement and progression [Hymn 284] how can I be happy without seeing them? Forgive me if I sound whiny here–to err is human and I feel more human than most.

It seems I’m in the market for a new line, one drawn with the heartaches of the labor and joie de vivre on the same side. It may be that I need God to connect these dots for me, or to let Him guide my surveyors. I pray my reach exceeds my grasp.

Permanent Link
I don’t think that the 5% means that you expect too much of yourself, I think that it means you’re doing your absolute best and shouldn’t beat yourself up during those times, or for those times that you “fail”. If lines worked 100% of the time, even for “sane” people, none of us would need to be here. The atonement would be for naught, because you would be perfect. We all know that’s not possible, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. See the vicious circle there? You’re doing fine. Worry, but not too much. If you didn’t worry, you wouldn’t be humble. Take it from someone who knows.

Comment by SalGal — March 18, 2006 @ 9:41 pm

Wow, Téa. Very nice thoughts.

I have ongoing back-and-forths with my own lines. It can be an extraordinarily painful experience to trip over the lines. It can also be a way to find out about myself, and to grow.

Sometimes I kick myself for crossing too many lines, and sometimes I surround myself with so many lines I’m not sure that there’s any unlined ground left at all. But in the in-between moments when life seems to make the most sense and produce the most happiness, I sometimes think that it is the lining process — drawing lines, occassionally crossing them, redrawing lines, reformulating patterns, and learning to stay within the right lines — that allows us to grow and mature and ultimately find the most happiness in life.

Comment by Kaimi — March 18, 2006 @ 10:47 pm

As an emotionally vibrant woman, myself, I can relate. I’m a little liek Anne of Green Gables myself, unable to avoid soaring up on the wings of anticipation or ebullation, and just as helpless when time comes for the thud of disappointment.

I was once diagnosed as bi-polar, and I was on enough Depakote to choke a donkey or two. So, i can totally relate. Even now, years later, as I’m dealing better with my emotional nature, I’m still pushing the boulder.

There is some magic level of “on top of it”-ness that I feel like when I have hit, it’ll all just be maintenance work, and thus less cumbersome leaving me more able to complete it all. I’m ploughing through, bit-by-bit juggernauting my way ever-so-slowly, and so often beset by various hurdles and obstacles, but I’m still making progress.

Yeah, you do have to draw some lines. I actually have a rating system (lines for several layers, high and low) that I use to track myself, and when I notice a downward trend, I can kind of fortify myself ahead for the impending dip.

I’ve also learned to tell myself that it’s not a real feeling, as in one founded in reason and attitude–that it’s just some random gland somewhere misfiring and dropping too much of whatever neurochemical is making me feel this way into my system. It sounds simplistic, but even that realization has helped my soldier on through many a day wherein I’d usually do little more than stare.

As awful as it sounds, also, try and take advantage of the mania. When you’re manic, know you’re manic, and focus it. Don’t let it run away with you. Take the extra energy, and get everything that much cleaner, that much more organized, that many more ducks in a row so that you’re ready when the swell breaks, and you suddenly find yourself underwater once again.

I’m lucky that my time on that rollercoaster seemed to be finite. I’ve been off meds now (3 years+) for longer than I was on them (~2 years). So, there can be hope.

Lines and boundaries are key–well really, it’s the honest self-awareness behind understanding and enforcing those lines and boundaries.

Roll that boulder, sister!

Comment by Naiah — March 19, 2006 @ 1:00 am

I suspect many of us don’t want to admit we have lines, or think we have more control over them than we do.
I hope your lines become more manageable and lead you in fabulous directions, while gently steering you away from the places that bring less joy to your life.

Comment by Darlene — March 19, 2006 @ 6:58 pm

95/5? Sounds like you’re doing pretty well to me. I found your post interesting because it reminds me once again that we all have our struggles.

I get it into my head that everyone else really is living the “put-together” lives they show to the public and that I’m the only one who has mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual struggles. This causes me to be harder on myself than I should be.

Then I am occassionally reminded that most everyone struggles too!

My struggle right now is finding the energy to live. I’m just too tired all of the time!

Nice post.

Comment by kristen j — March 20, 2006 @ 8:44 am

“Smart people choose the path of least resistance, and it”s the path of least resistance that makes the river crooked.” -unknown

Comment by kristi — March 20, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

95/5%. that sounds pretty good to me. I hope you don’t beat yourself up too much for the 5% or let the 5% get you down too much. I know it’s hard to control. I am reminded of what Lehi said in I Nephi: that there must needs be opposition in all things. If everything was always 100% all right do you think you would appreciate it as much? At least the 5% offers a contrast so you do appreciate the 95% more.

I love you. MomR

Comment by MomR — March 23, 2006 @ 7:35 pm

How can I reconcile these two statements?

I SO STRUGGLE WITH THIS. My inability to reconcile the things that go over the line, with the lines that demark a more well-rounded, stable person, leads me to dangerous places.

I SO LIVE with opposing ideas, thoughts, actions so much of the time; I’m a study in contradictions, I guess.

I try not to think about it too much, because when a set of these opposing things, actions, behaviors comes to the forefront, all hell breaks loose.

HELL, it is, for sure.

On the one hand, it’s easy to keep up the fight, striving to change. On the other, I could easily surmise that resistance is futile.

Yes, and Yes. I believe both, although sometimes one weighs more heavily upon the scales than the other, and so steers me in better or worse directions.

I’m a metronome, that sometimes frenzily swings out of beat, and sometimes steadily plugs away at keeping time . . . and sometimes it SO FEELS like all I’m doing is marking time, anyway . . .

Yet, I don’t feel particularly joyful trudging back down the hill or starting over again. If the plan for me involves improvement and progression [Hymn 284] how can I be happy without seeing them? Forgive me if I sound whiny here–to err is human and I feel more human than most.

Tea, I am SO with you on that hill . . . . perhaps we sometimes pass each other as you are pushing the boulder up the hill, and I am going downhill, sometimes to start over, sometimes to avoid being run over by the boulder as it bounds down the hill, sometimes excessively running as fast as I can with no regard for what damage the boulder might do as it gains speed . . . . . I ’spose you can wave to me as I streak (NOT NAKED lol) past you as I go downhill, or as I huff and puff my way up behind you.

Kaimi: Wow. I’m going to have to print that out . . . .

Naiah: You give me hope . . . .

Kristi: Great quote. Alot to think about, and even feel good about myself about, from that quote . . .

Comment by sarebear — March 23, 2006 @ 9:01 pm

I just wanted to thank everyone for responding here–lots of thoughts worth pondering on, and like sarebear said, full of hope.

The seven month old is paging me, so this is truncated, but I didn’t want these insightful comments to go unacknowledged.

Thank you.

Comment by Téa — March 24, 2006 @ 1:50 pm


I’m sorry I’m so late to this post–I seem to be late to all posts lately, and I think that my lines of temporal organization could use some work. That or I need a vacation. Probably both.

I wanted to tell you, from the perspective of someone who has watched her mother struggle with lines similar to those you describe, that it is absolutely true that your family does not wish you away. They wouldn’t be better off, and while that 5% time may be difficult for everyone, and while without doubt it impacts their lives in ways you might not even be able to imagine…not all of those ways are negative.

That sounds dark, I think, and possibly discouraging, but what I mean to say is that I know I am a stronger, more compassionate, more patient, more everything person because of my mother’s struggles and my struggles with my mother’s struggles. I would wish away her pain in a heartbeat, but never her with it. And though I sometimes think it’s selfish of me to want her to go on in spite of the pain she goes through in this life, and though I sometimes get impatient with all her lines and the crossing of them, I know I would be so much less without her.

Comment by EmilyS — March 24, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

Wow, EmilyS, thank you for your perspective.

Comment by Téa — March 24, 2006 @ 6:01 pm

Kristi’s almost-quote is most-likely:

“The profit system follows the path of least resistance and the path of least resistance is what makes a river crooked.”

That’s folk singer / hobo / poet / and master of anadiplosis Utah Phillips, turning an old folk notion into the version that’s certainly its most-quoted form today.

It’s from a commencement address that he wrote and delivered, rather famously, and it’s saved for history on the hilarious spoken-word album Moscow Hold which was released in 1999. The speech itself was from the early eighties, I believe. If it was at hand I’d check.

Phillips version, along with other folky wisdom that has his ring of truth to it, is also quoted very precisely, in the aptly-named song/poem “Serpentine”, by the very-feminist Ani Difranco (on 2003’s Evolve album) which is also highly recommended, and probably easier to find.

Comment by Rokusan — June 5, 2006 @ 10:14 am

Replies: 4 Comments

on Wednesday, March 22nd, mamacita said

Hmmm. An insightful essay draws few responses, while an incendiary comment on the duality of the godhead draws millions.

I guess it's the nature of the beast.

Maybe BECAUSE you were so insightful, and not controversial? Which is a good thing, if you were seeking to avoid extraneous issues.

Love you lots, keep plugging away, you're wonderful!

on Thursday, March 23rd, Barb said

I really enjoyed the post on lines. With my short-comings, it has given me much pause to think about others and how there may be so much more to a person that at the surface. Although I was depressed as a teenager and did things that I was ashamed of then, after I joined the LDS Church, I was in my view such a perfect angel to my family. I joined at 19. As a missionary, I could not relate to my missionary companions sometimes being moody. Don't get me wrong. They were great sisters and all of them in the field for the right reasons. They all loved the Gospel and the people who we taught. Sometimes they would get short and I did not have such a problem. Fast forward to ocd and add to the mix a mood swing here or there. Now I can relate. The question is do I forgive others as I want others to forgive me? Tea, I have a not quite ready for primetime blog at ldscity.com under Olivia86. I really kind of do a lot of brainstoming there. Maybe you would like to read it. Also, if you like drop me a line. It is great to get to know you from Piebolar and now from your posts.

on Sunday, March 26th, Moi said

Thanks, Mama. It does follow that controversy gets the comments sometimes more than other posts because people don't want to the be the fifth person saying "that's cool".

I liked the personal involvement most people took with the Mr. Rogers thread, explaining what they felt and remembered about the man and his show.

on Sunday, March 26th, Moi said

Barb, sorry about the commenting issue, I think I've got it fixed now =)

I'm not familiar with ldscity.com, do I need an account to comment there? It took a little doing but I think I found your blog.

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