Monday, September 30, 2013

A Man, A Woman

When I was a missionary, I was not a very good senior companion. I drove myself very hard, and my companions were along for the ride. This is probably why I never trained anyone. My failures as a senior companion—the "presiding" role in a companionship—illuminate principles of divine leadership and power. What does it mean to preside? What does it mean to nurture, provide, protect? What does it mean to be a good wife, or a good husband? How is the Lord's power different from mortal power?

My thoughts on this topic are a product of my marriage, my dating, the Family Proclamation to the World, some feminist mores, conversations I've had with people, and my observations of others' approach to romantic relationships, divorce, leadership, and parenthood. I talk a lot to people. I'm interested in them, in learning how they deal with life, God, and others. My opinions do not come only from my own experiences, though they are of course filtered through my understanding of others' experiences.

I know most feminists and liberals read the Family Proclamation to the World (the Proclamation) with a critical eye. To them, words such as "preside" conflict with "equal partners." But I have learned to delight in the balance it strikes. It is a remarkable document, especially considering when it was issued. In a recent conversation with my brother about dating, I realized it is what I want out of marriage.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Power in Vulnerability

"You know what, you're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle. But you are worthy of love and belonging."

Years ago, I created a fictional character that was almost entirely built around vulnerability. She was able to be hurt again, and again, and still open herself up to loving others without judgment. Even then, more than fifteen years ago, I wanted to be like that. Since then, I fought and fought to gain the ability to be vulnerable. I learned how to stop layering my personality with illusion, and truly allow myself to be myself. Then, the first time I truly put it to the test, that vulnerability was taken advantage of in every way. It's been like I've had to go through that struggle all over again in the last few years. But I think I am getting there.

I find myself occasionally having to defend my choice to stop dating. In a religion where marriage is the pinnacle of covenantal achievement, it has been very hard to let all expectations of it go. But dating, for me, was becoming something where I kept being drawn, again and again, into this feeling that I have to conform to someone's idea of perfection to be loved. In the LDS singles' world, so much energy is bent on becoming that ideal, desirable person. To me, a recovering perfectionist, it is an alcoholic hanging out in a bar. It was simply too hard to continually fight against the current.

The biggest reason why I left the singles' ward and stopped dating was to give myself the space I needed to work on charity. To me, charity and being vulnerable are almost the same thing. When we are able to be vulnerable, we can *see* other people, and love them in their weaknesses. I don't think I can do that in an environment that lends itself so readily to objectification and predation.

I think a huge point of the Gospel is that we have been given the ability, through the sacrifice of the Savior, to be vulnerable. Understanding this is the key to heaven, which I'll be soon be writing about. Consider this a bit of a prelude. Listen to this woman. She knows what she is talking about.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Loving When You Get Nothing

"I know God loves me. He's finally given me everything I wanted!"
—Facebook post of a newly engaged woman

I am a perfectionist. Some people say that with a bit of pride, "I'm a perfectionist!" Glad to show they always try to do their best. But perfectionism . . . the real thing . . . is nothing to take pride in. I've been thinking about my perfectionism quite a bit lately. It is rooted in a deep-seated knowledge that I cannot be loved unless I am perfect. I've struggled with it from birth. Unfortunately, my experience has almost unilaterally provided evidence that it is true: being loved is dependent on being flawless. On conforming to expectation.

It was this perfectionism that drove me to work so hard on my mission I was fifteen pounds underweight by the end, and that led me into an abusive marriage. It causes me to push people away the moment I feel I've disappointed them. It gives me this haunting fear that I will never measure up, will always fail at anything that is truly important to me, and that I will always be unloved. It robs the Atonement of its power. I fight so hard against it, but it is always there.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Beauty in Grief

Most of the time, we think of grief as losing a loved one. But loss of faith, a marriage, a hope or dream, or even a way of life can also shake our world to its very foundations.

Just this Sunday, I substituted for a Sunday School class to teach teenagers how following the commandments can help us be like Heavenly Father. Never before have I struggled with a topic the way I struggled with this one, and I didn't expect it. Not only did it tap into my understanding that I can never be like Heavenly Father, not really (since I'm a woman,) but it tapped into the biggest source of my grief. It is not my marriage that still haunts me, my fears and pain regarding that are long resolved. It isn't even my relationships afterwards to which my intermittent sorrow clings. It is that I have lost faith that "after much tribulation, cometh the blessings." Believing that has lost meaning. It is the things I have worked the hardest at that fail most spectacularly. I have struggled long and hard within myself and with the Lord to discover what I'm doing wrong, what I could do better, without answer. Whatever it might be, I am at a loss to change it.

Popular Posts