Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Until After the Trial

Opinions. Addiction. Intervention. Agency. Atonement.

One of the things I have had to struggle with throughout my life is my own opinion. I have a hard time believing my own opinion over the opinions of others. To use a superficial example, I might make a comment about how beautiful the blue sky is. Someone else might argue that the sky isn't blue, it's turquoise. Though in the moment, I might maintain that the sky is blue, after the discussion, my mind is full of doubts. Even if many others call the sky blue, even if the person who believes it is turquoise calls other things of the same hue blue, even if I'm in possession of a spectroanalysis that indicates there are no greenish tints in the sky, I still worry whether or not I am wrong, and have been wrong my whole life.

This is not a good quality in a disciple of Christ, from what I can see. And I don't know what to do about it.

I've been watching a show called Intervention by A&E which is, by no coincidence, about addictions and intervention. As I watch, I begin to draw parallels between the those who are addicted and myself. I wonder if my perpetual negative thoughts about myself (as I worry about whether or not I am wrong, begin to beat up on myself, and fill my own head with failure) parallel addictive behavior, avoiding pain by causing it myself. Though I have been taught the strength not to mask my feelings behind some other outlet, which is some comfort.

The outpouring of love by those around the addicted people is amazing to watch, but I can't help but wonder why it had to get that bad before someone would intervene. Why does a person need to face the destruction of their life before anyone takes such a strong stand against it? Of course, most of us don't want to control those in our lives until things get really bad. We don't want to take a stand because we're afraid of alienating the loved one or of trying to deny them their agency. To tie back to a previous post, we are afraid of our own potential to abuse.

So often, I feel alone though I know I have friends and family who are there for me. I can't ask for the type of support I sometimes feel I need. It would not be fair to those with lives of their own. And I begin to wonder why I even think I need their support. I believe in the Atonement, do I not? I believe that Christ can do what He says He will do, right? So why can't I feel it? He is the one who should be filling that void.

Why does it feel like I'm the only person on the battlefield, fighting imaginary enemies, while the real battle occurs two counties away?

Why does my heart still doubt what my head knows?

When will the things I've dedicated my life to become real for me?

When is a trial of faith done?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Myth of Happiness

I read a recent Salon.com article about a non-LDS woman who finds herself obsessed with Mormon Mommy-type blogs. Now, although I am both Mormon and a Mommy, and though I blog, this blog is not really a Mormon Mommy type blog (though I do sort of have one). I'm not really sure what type of blog this is, to be honest. I suppose, like the title suggests, it documents my spiritual and emotional life, the things I think about and struggle with on an internal level.

I don't know that most of what I blog about here are strictly "happy" things. They are faithful and hopeful, I hope, but not particularly "happy".

In reading the comments, I noted that an overwhelming number of the comments treated the Mormon Mommy blogs as fake. Whether they supposed they were commercial or evangelical efforts, the general consensus seemed to be that "Mormon women cannot be as happy as they seem, so they are being deceptive. Deception is for a reason, therefore they must be getting something out of this." Plenty of people cited the old Utah Women Take Antidepressants study, many others delighted in highlighting the "dark side" that must exist.

Of course there is some filtering when it comes to blogs. Whatever the main focus of the blog, not everything in a blogger's life ends up online. But these women have chosen to highlight the things that bring them joy. Very few of them sound to me like their "faking it until they make it" online. They genuinely seem to find things to be happy about. Of course, it is possible that if they were suffer some life-altering disaster, such as divorce or losing a child, that the walls would come tumbling down, but as NieNie has demonstrated, this isn't necessarily the case.

I think this is the key. Too often, we expect to be happy when certain conditions are met. But I believe that true happiness is generally unconditional. It is a choice. I've had a really hard time in my life the past several years. And yet, there are many things that have brought me immense joy. Some of those things I remember to chronicle in my "mommy blog", but some of them are just for me. Some of these things are things that others might not expect me to find joy in, given my circumstances, such as the doctrine of eternal families, having occasional alone time, watching my children grow.

True, I could look at the lives of some of these women and be jealous. To be honest, sometimes I am. The husband/provider, wife/caretaker dichotomy is something I worked really hard for, believed in, and lost. But though I mourn that loss for myself, I can also find joy in the evidence that it can work, and I find so much joy in the wonderful blessings I do still have.

So I don't think that happiness is a myth. I just don't think it is what some people think it is. And maybe that's why so many are "obsessed" with Mormon Mommy blogs. They sense something beyond the surface of reupholstering chairs, photographing children in pumpkin patches, and keeping a spotless house. Something that has nothing to do with lifestyle.

They sense the reality of happiness.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Do I Do About Abuse in Others? . . . A Resurrected Email

My email for this site has apparently not been forwarding emails the way it should, so I deeply apologize for anyone who has emailed me and been ignored. It was truly not my intent. I have reason to believe it is fixed, now.

Some of you have asked what you can do to help someone who is going through abuse, or trying to get out of it. One email which was sent by Quimby, an amazing woman, apparently just after my forwarding went on the fritz, I have reproduced in part here as a perfect example of what can be said and done for someone escaping an abusive relationship.

I . . . want you to know this:
You are a very brave, courageous, strong woman for removing yourself and your children from that situation.
It will get better.
You can do this.
Any abuse that you suffered at his hands - it is NOT your fault.
A marriage breakdown that came from these circumstances - it is NOT a sin.

I also want to offer my help, in whatever way you need or want it. Do you need [anything?] Is there anything I can do to make this an easier time for you?

. . .

The most dangerous times in an abusive marriage are when you're pregnant and when you're leaving. So, be careful. If you have left your marital home and you have to go back there for any reason, make sure you have someone with you. If he's left it make sure you've changed all of the locks and have really good locks on all of the windows. (It might even be worth investigating bars or safety screens for the windows, depending on his history.) If you've left and he doesn't know where you are, try to keep it that way. Document everything. I know it often seems that restraining orders aren't worth the paper they're written on but at least that way the police have a record (and you've got a record for when it comes time for the custody hearing).

Walk tall - head held high - you will get through this. "Fake it til you feel it" - I am sure your self-esteem and self-worth has taken a battering with everything that's happened, so be good to yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself lots of compliments, even if you think they are just lies (they aren't really - it's just how you feel right now).

Despite how you might feel now, you are setting a good example for your daughters. You are telling them: You are worth more than this. You do not have to put up with this. You deserve better.

And despite how you might feel now, you are setting a good example for yourself. YOU are worth more than this. YOU do not have to put up with this. YOU deserve better.

And you will find it.

This is excellent advice, every piece of it. I can see how excellent, now that I am at the other end of things. She did not let the fact that we were relative strangers keep her from opening her arms to me. She did not let the fear that she would offend me stop her from offering the support she could. She did nothing that tried to take away my agency, but she made it clear she was here to help in any way I would let her.

She is truly an amazing woman and certainly one of Christ's disciples.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Family: A Damaging Doctrine?

I have noticed a growing trend in various LDS blogs of referring to the "centrality of the family" in the LDS Church doctrine as damaging to the value and self-esteem of singles.

I don't buy it.

The doctrine of the family is multi-directional. Everyone, everyone is the member of a family, whether or not you have married and had children. And being the child of parents does not make you a child insgesamt or as a whole.

The doctrine of the family has everything to do with tribal bonding and non-sexual intimacy and loyalty, and very little to do with saying "I do".

Granted, the doctrine of the family, like much doctrine, is largely misunderstood, but to me that is a problem in application, not in doctrine.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Doctrinal Side of Abuse

The core of abuse is control. Any time we try to control another person, we are opening ourselves up to possibly abusing them. The main difference between "merely" attempting to control a person and actually abusing them is only by degree; how far are you willing to go to attempt that control?

This is why it is so difficult to label abuse, and why it is so difficult for victims of abuse to be believed. When a woman goes to someone and says "he got mad at me and broke some of my things," a typical first thought is something like, "well, that's not all that bad, I've wanted to break things before." Just like Satan's methods of leading us down to hell, the difference is gradual. Our desire to control our environment coupled with our belief in our own invulnerability, makes it all too easy to align ourselves with abusers rather than victims.

I remember hearing stories of abused women and thinking, "I would never let someone hit me." I've heard others say similar things, "Well, if it was me, I'd have kicked him right out of the house the moment he laid a finger on me."

But it's not that easy. Just like Bugs Bunny's lines to cross, there is never a clear-cut moment of no return until it's too late.

There are many cases where the priesthood has been used to attempt control. Often, this leaves members bitter about their experiences and cautious when dealing with priesthood leaders. But the Lord taught that those who attempt to control are not actually working by the powers of heaven. He also pointed out that most of us who are given power immediately try to use that power to control. In other words, the tendency to abuse is part of our natural man status, and is normal.

But normal does not mean acceptable.

I believe that one of the best weapons in the fight against abuse is self-realization. If we realize that all of us have this tendency to control, and that we are separated from abusers only by our unwillingness to go to certain lengths, we are empowered to recognize controlling behavior before it blossoms into abuse, both in ourselves and in others.

And, while I'll not go into detail here, there is much to be learned about the powers of heaven and the structure of eternity once we master this concept.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

She Said, 2010

Out of curiosity, I decided to do a recap of 2010 to go along with the change in design. 'Tis the month for self reflection, anyways, right?

So I created a Wordle of all the labels on my posts of 2010, and in the spirit of full disclosure, included a list of all the drafts I begun and never finished.

What I said in 2010:

What I didn't:

1/15/10—Abuse and the Atonement
1/26/10—Yearning for Something Greater
2/17/10—Wheat and Tares
3/11/10—Raw Faith
3/30/10—What I Have Learned
7/13/10—The Spiritual Significance of Trivial Tokens
7/20/10—The Rules, Agency and Freedom
8/3/10—If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands!
8/10/10—Gay Marriage!
8/20/10—Priesthood, Stewardships and Lamp Oil
9/3/10—Abraham's Sacrifice
10/11/10—Stand for Truth and Righteousness
11/16/10—What I Learned From No Longer Being Married
12/14/10—Doing More

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thanks, But That's Not a Compliment

After testifying for the first time in awhile yesterday, I was told by a woman in our ward that I was a "deep thinker". My first gut reaction was not positive (though naturally I covered this fairly graciously, knowing her intent was to compliment and not insult.) After thinking about it for some time, I realized a few reasons why I am not complimented by this.

First, I think no more deeply than anyone else. I spend far too much time on trivialities of daily life, and struggles with things I should have already mastered.

Second, by labeling me a "deep thinker", people are subconsciously excusing themselves from pondering over gospel topics. They are saying, essentially, that I think about the gospel because that is what I am, not because that is what I choose to do.

Lastly, I have also been labeled a "Kolob chaser" by a few in my ward. (Although the term is my words, not theirs.) As a person who chases after the so-called "deep doctrines", which in my mind are anything but deep, I am easily ignored as being too caught up in non-essentials, too "scholastic". This has cost me dearly at times, and probably will again in the future. All that is beside the fact that there are many, many more people historically and doctrinally educated than I am.

The truth is I really don't care too much about where Kolob is, how Heavenly Mother fits into the grander scheme of things, or how exactly Mary conceived Jesus. I don't do more than occasionally briefly speculate on such things. I try not to spend too much time on them because I figure that my spirit already knows them, they are just hidden behind the veil of mortality. I'm not particularly interested in wasting my time trying to guess at things I must already know or will more accurately learn after this life, and things that have little bearing on my duties to God here in mortality.

I do, however, take the gospel very seriously. I spend a lot of time self-analyzing and looking for ways to bring myself in closer alignment with God, ways to listen and respond better to the Spirit, ways to purge myself of resentment and other dark feelings before they become habits. That is no more than any disciple of Christ does. It is not particularly special or laudable.

A much better compliment to me would be something along the lines of, "you must really love the Lord." Because I want to. That is my life and my goal, however imperfectly I pursue it. I want to love the Lord not merely through my emotions, but through my actions, in a way that glorifies and serves Him.

I want to be someone in whom He can be "well pleased." That would be a compliment indeed.

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