I am not what you might call a wonderful person.  I try to be, but I get angry and frustrated a lot, and I still get irrationally ticked off at people for being, well, different.  I am that person who assumes that my way is the best way.  I’m always genuinely surprised to find the better way was the way someone else thought up, though I try very hard not to express that. I just swallow humble pie in my dark corner and hope no one notices that I’m choking a little.

Surprise: I’m not perfect.

But, and I can say this with confidence, I am in MUCH better shape than I ever was.  It is a small comfort that assuming your way is the best is a fault that many humans have and have to overcome with time and effort.  That’s no excuse, but at least I’m in good company with the rest of the human race.  I’m learning what differences annoy me because it means I have to adapt to a way other than my own (different style of cutting vegetables – yes, I’ve run into this) and which annoy me because I find them fundamentally reprehensible (blatant disregard for others).  Distinguishing between the times I have to chop vegetables differently because I am in someone else’s kitchen and the times I have to leave the company of others is a skill I am slowly getting better at.  I used to just leave people’s company all the time (which was extremely good for making friends . . . you believe that, right? I didn’t either), then I used to try to adapt all the time (which was extremely good for making me miserable), and now I am working my way towards that happy medium.  Last night I had a moment where I could feel myself trying to adapt against my better judgement.  It took two phone calls for moral support (one before and one after the fact), but I stood my ground and figuratively left the company that I knew I could not keep.  It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

As I look back, there are several major events that have led me to the point where I can see the wonderful person in me.  I get glimpses of her every now and then, and I am astonished by what I am capable of becoming one day.  One day.  Today I wanted to talk about those events because it’s a new year, another year of trying to become the new and better me.  And because I think we all forget that these major events that change us are often so very, very small.  Most of the things I’ll talk about today are going to seem negligible in the grand scheme of things.  I’ve talked about some of my other experiences in this blog: anniversaries, diagnoses, people, events.  All that could be construed as bigger than these moments.  But these are my big moments.

I don’t think I could do this chronologically, so we’ll just list them as they come to mind, sound good?

1. The moment I found my faith:

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a Mormon, for those of you unfamiliar with the full title of our church).  I’ve found great peace and happiness in this religion and wouldn’t give it up for anything.  I’ve long said that I was born in the Church but wasn’t converted until I was fourteen, and that is very true.  But this is not the ONLY faith I’m talking about.  It certainly plays a big part in who I’ve become and in the woman I hope to be, but the moment I found true faith in God was the moment I found my faith in His children.  Finding faith in this world, dark as it proves itself to be so consistently, was a revelation.  It was an attitude shift, it was a personality shift.  My treatment of others and myself dramatically changed that day.  I’ve been told by many that I am a hopeless optimist.  Many people don’t know me very well (and they should seriously meet my friend-so-close-she’s-my-sister, KitKat–I’ve got nothing on her).  I’ve had ample experiences proving my faith misplaced.  However, I’ve also had ample experiences proving, as I call it, “the infinite capacity of the human soul to change.”  So people mess up.  So do I.  I have faith that we’ll do better next time.  And if not next time, the next, or the next, or possibly one thousand next times from now.  But one day, it will happen.  On the days I remember this faith, which is rooted in my religious faith, I am a much better person.

2.  The moment I began to love myself:

Oh, that this love were giftable.  I almost said teachable, but then I realized that I wouldn’t have learned to love myself if so many people didn’t love me.  So clearly, I was taught to love myself.  But if only I could gift this love to those around me.  I know several people who deserve this gift, but have yet to give it to themselves.  It took me several years to give it to myself. I was nearly twenty-one before I finally gave in and began to see myself as someone worth loving.  But once I did, I got better faster–exponentially so.  And not just in the mental health arena.  Physically, academically, spiritually, personally, interpersonally–you name it, I got better.  Love of self really is permission to become someone fantastic, and until I gave myself permission, I couldn’t do half the work towards who I wanted to be.

3. The moment I realized I didn’t have much time left:

Don’t worry, I don’t have any terminal diseases.  But, towards the beginning, getting my Bi-polar diagnosis felt like a terminal disease.  The statistics aren’t heartening, especially for those who are diagnosed young–going through puberty with Bi-Polar is a recipe for disaster.  As each medication proved itself less effective than the last, the amount of time I might have left looked shorter and shorter.  I realized that I better start living and soon.  For a while,  my definition of “living” was pretty limited.  It was, to be honest, all I was capable of while I was still struggling to get the Bi-Polar under control.  Now that I am comfortable in my mid-twenties (OH MY GOSH!) I feel like EVERY day is won back from those awful, hope-stealing statistics.  And that I still don’t have much time left, really.  Because I don’t know when or where.  So I better start living.

4. The moment I discovered my tenacity:

This is related to the previous moment.  I cannot say where I would be without this.  Somewhere in the medication-whipped lump that I was at thirteen or fourteen, I found that place in myself that was tired, not of life, but of ALL THIS BULL.  I don’t know what woke up that tiny little fighter in the back of my brain, but it sure did a lot for me.  It wasn’t always good.  That tenacity had some tendency for getting me in trouble for a while, both with adult authorities and with my mental health progress (“I know what’s best for me, let me be!”).  But eventually common sense, a good deal of love, and a healthy dose of “What the heck am I doing?” got me and my tenacious self working together and towards health.  And a degree.  And a good relationship with myself.  And a good relationship with my family.  And a number of things that some days I hang onto by the skin of my tenaciously gritted teeth.  It’s not stubbornness–that, to me, is immovability–it’s a willingness to move forward no matter the cost.

5. The moment I discovered my village:

You all know the phrase: it takes a village to raise a child.  Well guess what?  It still takes a village to raise a Joie, years after my childhood has ended.  Without KitKat and Snikkers, number four never would have happened.  Without an amazing family and a few precious found siblings, number two absolutely never would have come to fruition.  Without leaders who cared enough to visit me in hospitals, to learn my name even though they saw me once a year at most, without parents who taught me how to search and learn for myself, number one would never have developed.  Without Auddie, Celessy and DearestBex, number three would be infinitely harder to enact.  Without the precious children I taught in Sunday School the past year and a half, I would not have worked half so hard to apply all these and more.  They made me better. Without my village–and I am SO VERY SORRY I cannot name you all (even through nick name) individually–I would never have become me.  Often times, people come to think that–because of their experiences–no one can ever understand them.  That it’s just them and the world and that’s that.  I don’t think I ever quite made it to the edge of that philosophical cliff, but discovering my village pulled my down a path that cannot lead me back to anywhere close to that edge.  Look at you and your amazingness.

6. The moment I discovered gratitude for my Bi-Polar:

I’ve talked about this moment before, and I’ll talk about it again.  I can even tell you the day it happened.  It was the day my psychologist declared me in remission (funny how, though I’m not terminal, we use surprisingly similar verbiage), June 21, 2008.  I went straight from there to KitKat’s house (she’s always shared in these triumphs, always been there), and called another village member on the way to celebrate the news.  It wasn’t until much later that I shared with them what had caused my psychologist to be willing to declare my remission official.  I had actually said the words, “After everything I’ve been through, I can look back and honestly say, I’m thankful for it.  I’m glad I have this.  Being Bi-Polar allows me to feel so much more and now that it’s under control, I can feel it and revel in it and understand the sheer beauty of this world on a deeper level than some people ever will.  And for all the fighting I’ve had to do to get there, that’s a privilege I wouldn’t give up for anything.”  Some people will never understand how I can feel this way.  But I do!  I am SO LUCKY!  I strongly believe that God gave me this gift, that starts out in the form of a curse, because he knew that to experience the world the way I get to–and this is the best part–every day of my life, is what keeps me going.  And I don’t mean what keeps me fighting the Bi-Polar battle.  It’s what keeps me going on a much more basic level: without this wonderfully broad and intense spectrum of emotion that somehow magnifies every experience into something stunning, I’m not sure that these discoveries would be made.  That I’d see the small things for how truly and astoundingly BIG they are.  And I NEVER would have seen how much being Bi-Polar HELPS me, if I hadn’t discovered how to be grateful for it.

Surprise: I’m still not perfect.  I forget these moments some days.  Oscar and I are best buds on those days–that and a good book to shut me away from the world.  But as I learn to remember these moments always, and all the other moments that have branched out from these moments, I become better.  I meet what I think is my potential and then I exceed it.  Like I said, I’m beginning to see who I may yet become, and that woman astounds me.  I can’t wait to be her.  And, like so much of these lessons, if it takes a little more effort and a little more fight than I expected to ever have to put up in order to become her, it’ll be a privilege.  Because once I get there, what new moments will be waiting? And what new moment wait along the way?

Oh, how I cannot wait to find out.