Monday, September 23, 2013

I don't think it means what you think it means...

Are men and women different? Yes.  Yes we are.  I’ll be the first to admit that, and really, when it comes down to it, you can’t really make an argument to the contrary.  Men and women are different.  We know this.  I can say this and you can nod your head, assenting without me having to quote the latest neurological or sociological study on the matter.  Yes we are different.  But that doesn’t mean that one is above the other.  In fact, I am a firm believer that God’s plan is that we are exactly and perfectly equal, and opposite.  Much like reflections of one another, or like parallel lines running from eternity to eternity. 
Yesterday was another hard Sunday for me.  Another girl gets up and gives a long (like 15-20 minutes) talk on how she’s so glad she got married and how it’s her calling and she’s so righteous because she’s made this decision to be a housewife and to take a backseat to her husband and now she knows she’s righteous because she’s so happy.  And it just makes me sick inside.  I’m not upset because she’s happy, no not at all! I’m happy that she’s happy! Honestly, I really am.  I’m just sick of the social stigma that makes girls like me whither away into nothingness because if we’re unhappy it’s because ‘we’re unrighteous’. 
I’ve had a few of these Sundays over the last couple of (really difficult) years, where a girl gets up and bears solemn testimony of how she’s so happy that she’s married and now can fulfill her destiny to be a mother and a housewife and how it’s God’s plan and how she’s so grateful to have these righteous desires in her heart.  If you want to be a housewife… go right on ahead.  Go for it.  It’s wonderful, it’s rewarding, it’s important.  It’s also not for me.  And it’s not for everyone.  But it’s so pushed from the time we’re 8 that it’s God’s plan and it’s the only righteous course for a woman to take that once you make the realization that it’s not for you… you’re shunned.
Trust me, I know firsthand. 
So, after crying through most of sacrament meeting (I cry when I’m angry as well as when I’m sad.  Pretty much any powerful emotion actually.) my dear sweet, wonderful husband took me home.  I told him I couldn’t just sit in Relief Society and hear everyone cooing over her talk and how she was so right and we are all so grateful that she made such good decisions and had such a wonderful warm and caring heart. 
Gag me with a spoon.
I just couldn’t take that.  Not again.  And I was too emotional to stand up and put in my two cents and still be taken seriously. 
Perhaps what bothered me the most in her talk, and about all the talks I’ve heard before that have boiled my stomach, isn’t when they say things like how they “got their priorities straight” or “received a change of heart,” (although those really piss me off because then I’m sitting there thinking how I prayed earnestly everyday for nearly a year to have a change of heart and to get my priorities straight and the only thing I got was a desire to kill myself) it’s more the use of the Proclamation on the Family and this concept of “Gender Roles”
As I said before, men and women are different, and so gender is something that we use to identify between the two.  Men and women. Male and female.  Masculine and feminine.  Now the Proclamation has this sentence that says, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
Any of you who have heard me talk about the Proclamation before know that I believe it is true.  I also believe that a lot of people interpret it with closed minds and narrow hearts.  Much like the Bible.  Or any scripture, really.  Everyone has their own opinion on what each verse means.  And well, each time I bring up the proclamation is to say, “Hey, I don’t know about you, but I’ve read it many times, I’ve studied it from every angle I can think of both contemporary and traditional, and this is what I think.” Just so you know, I’m not saying this document is untrue.  I am, however, saying that 1. It is not law. And 2. Read the damn thing before you shove it under my nose to tell me I’m unrighteous.
So, getting back to gender.  Gender is usually used to define the difference between men and women in a sociological or spiritual or cultural sense as opposed to a biological one.  Are men and women different? Yes. Yes we are.  Women are better at multitasking.  Men are better at focusing.  Women are better at compassion.  Men are better at decision making.  Now here’s the key word: Usually.  Now, we have a lot of men and women who embody both masculine and feminine traits.  They take the best of both worlds and you get a well rounded, wonderful human being. 
I believe in the premortal existence.  Do I believe that I was a “woman” in the premortal life? No, not really.  Do I believe that I was marked with certain qualities like empathy, tendency to be more emotional than not, self doubt, wanting to do and accomplish everything at once, etc etc? yes.  Yes I do.  And this is what I believe about gender.  I believe that it is a part of our soul, not our genetic make up.  I believe that women and men are different and that USUALLY men embody masculine traits and USUALLY women embody feminine traits.  But also that it’s not absolute.  I have ambition. I am passionate. And protective.  My husband is caring and sweet.  Does that mean I’m any less feminine or he’s any less masculine? No.  no it does not. 
Gender-Female souls usually do better with internal pain, and so you have women, who go through pregnancy, emotional strives, and self doubt.  And Gender-male souls do better with outside pain, hence you have male bodies that they take into war with long arms and muscled torsos who crush and run and would rather punch someone in the face than talk about what they’re “feeling”.  The system works.  Usually.  For most people.  There’s a reason we have these stereotypes, you know.  But stereotypes are not laws.  And I think we know that, but also that we forget that we know that. 
I know I’m not alone.  I know there are thousands of women in my same church with my same predicament.  But I also know we’re still a minority.  But there’s enough of us that we need to stand up and say hey! I’m not unrighteous, I’m just different from you.  And you know what? That’s okay. 
If God made us all so different, why are we trying so hard to be the same?
So going back to gender roles and sexism and our society and I’m a feminist but a liberal feminist which means…. Okay yeah I’ll stop rambling now and get back on track. 
Can a woman lead men? Yes.  Have you read the Old Testament? Read Judges.  God couldn’t find a man to deliver in righteousness so he found a woman. And she was awesome.  Or read a history book.  Joan of Arc.  Can men lead women? Yes, okay that one’s been over done.  Is it unrighteous for a woman to lead men?  No.  Is it unrighteous for a woman to have passion or ambition? No.  Is it unrighteous for a man to have a deep bond with his children and work from home or to be a stay at home dad? No.  not at all.  But these choice aren’t for everyone.  Just like Sushi isn’t for everyone or Battlestar Galactica isn’t for everyone (wait, yes it is.  That show’s awesome.  Although not for ages 13 and under…) the point is you have to make your own decisions.  And you have to live with them.  But you don’t have to live with them forever.
I was raised to believe that being a stay at home mom was gonna be awesome and fun and amazing and spiritually uplifting.  And then I got married.  And I tried it.  I tried taking a backseat.  And I’ve babysat and nannied etc etc.  and you know what? It’s not for me.  And I’m so glad I know that now, even though it was a really rough road to realization.  It’s not for me.  And it never will be.  And that’s fine. 
We’re not supposed to take a backseat anyway.  We’re supposed to be opposite and equal, like forces of nature.  People say “women are so emotional, they cry when they’re mad and they cry when they’re sad and they cry when they’re happy, they don’t make any sense.” Well you know what?  Men yell when they’re happy, and when they’re sad, and when they’re angry.  Parallel lines people.  Without one another we’d just be a line.  Boring.  Can’t make shapes, can’t see where we’re going, can’t judge the distance.  But when we’re together with another line, we can fall into a pattern.  We can fit.  We can see when we’re veering off course and help one another out.  Opposite and equal.  No matter what plane you’re on. 
So here’s to all the stay at home moms and dads out there.  You’re wonderful.  And if you’re happy, I’m so happy for you.  And to all the working moms and dads out there, you’re wonderful and if you’re happy, I’m happy for you.  And here’s to all the men and women out there who know that they’re different or that they have different trials or that they have a different purpose and who struggle to make people understand.  Keep up the good fight.  You’ll get there sooner or later.  I’m still battling, but I’m a lot more at peace about it now than I was even six months ago.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The War on Family

So I’m taking a Sociology course online.  It’s leftover from prerequisites during my brief desire to be a Dental Hygienist.  That ship has sailed, but I haven’t finished the class yet and I have to finish it before the middle of August when I lose access to the course content.
I’ve always liked Sociology, even before I knew what it was.  Moving around so much really gave me an amazing perspective on how different American culture can be.  We’ve lived in extremely conservative states, and extremely liberal ones.  We’ve lived in the north, and the south, the east, and the far east.  I’ve seen and understood things that probably few people see or understand in their whole lives—much less by the time they’re 16.  Not that I’m bragging.  I have a lot to learn in an infinite amount of other categories.  All I’m saying is that I have particular interest in this topic and so am enjoying the course I am taking.
Since it’s online, it mainly consists of a lot of reading and a few assignments and tests.  The last few chapters have covered a wide variety of topics, from economic circumstances to age and gender to deviance. All this reading has really opened up my eyes to the importance of me.  My thoughts, my feelings, my beliefs about everything that is going on in this world.  That being said, I have discovered a lot about myself in recent months and have found my voice—and would like to share some of the things that have been on my mind as I have been reading all these studies, statistics, and references in Sociology.
            Conservatives talk about ‘The War on Terror.’ Liberals talk about ‘The War on Poverty.’ And devout Christians—for my purposes, mostly the Mormons—talk about ‘The War on Family.’
            Come on, who hasn’t heard about this?  The war on family? DOMA? Prop 8? How the ‘fundamental unit of society’ is crumbling right at our fingertips because of gay rights? I have never been comfortable with that notion.  And, as a Libertarian, I believe that people have the right to live their lives as they wish—within reason (i.e. theft, murder, abuse, etc are not nor ever shall be tolerable in my book).  I’ve met Mormons who are offended by the show “Modern Family” for portraying a happy gay couple with an adopted child.  I’ve heard the lectures, the warnings, the proclamations that gays are out to ruin Families. And you know what—I really don’t believe that’s true.
            As I was reading today, I found a study that shook me to the soul.  And this small segment has disturbed me greatly.
                        “With the exception of the police and the military, the family is the most violent organization in the United States.”

The gays aren’t ruining families.
We are.

You want to talk about the war on family?  This is how Satan is going to destroy families.  By making them undesirable.  By training men to objectify women.  By teaching women that families are ‘domestic slavery.’ By having millions and millions of women and children in abusive and violent relationships that oftentimes they are too afraid or too poor to escape.  All of it. 
            I am very open about my desire to adopt.  I have had several friends that have been adopted—one of which was adopted from Russia when she was a child.  Her future in the US with a family that loves her and cherishes her is so much better than the life she would have had if she had remained in that Russian orphanage.  I would love to adopt one—perhaps several—children.  (But this is a personal choice and a topic for another blog entry)  However, doing the research, the process of adoption is truly daunting.  It takes so much time, effort, and money that I can understand how many couples might give up.
            Mormons talk a lot about how gays cannot be allowed to adopt children.  That children ‘deserve’ to grow up in a house with both a mother and a father.  But this is an absolute. ( And we all know that only Sith deal in absolutes.) what, then, about mothers who die in childbirth?  Or fathers who die as soldiers and never know their children beyond an ultrasound?  What then about children who grow up being bounced around the foster system?  Yes, I understand how important it is to have both a mother and a father figure in your life.  My parents are amazing and I’d never ask for anything else.  But it just doesn’t sit right with me—saying that gays shouldn’t or cannot adopt or the wrath of God with rain down upon us. 
I think what a child deserves—most of all—is love.  Love.  A child deserves that first and foremost of everything.  And isn’t it better—couldn’t even staunch conservatives agree that it is ‘the lesser of two evils’—to allow a child to be adopted into a gay family that loves them dearly than remaining in the care of those that are assigned to them?  With no real interest in who they are or what their needs are? 
‘The War on Family’ isn’t about gay rights.  It’s about Families.  As the fundamental unit of society.  Families aren’t the 1950’s stereotype anymore.  We have single working moms, single working dads, stay at home moms, stay at home dads, aunts, uncles, and grandparents taking responsibility for children; adopted children and friends.  Family is more than the people in it.  Family is love.  It is devotion.  It is commitment beyond simple biology.  It’s beautiful, important, powerful…
And it’s also falling apart.

Families aren’t traps, but neither are they easy.  It sickens me to think of domestic violence and child abuse.  It literally makes me shake.  Such a thing—such impurity and corruption of such a beautiful thing—is far more deterrent to me than any ‘lifestyle’ choice of a couple that wishes to love and care for a child that has no one in the world to look out for them. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

10. God has not forgotten me.

And this will be the last post on this series of posts now that I have a steady and stable VPN working I can finally publish it.  So… hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far.
God has not forgotten me
It gives me no pleasure and great pause to admit that there have been times in the last year where I have wholly and fully believed that God had forgotten me.  And everyone tried to talk me out of it, but I just couldn’t believe that he could be watching me suffer like this and just let it continue.  God didn’t forget me, but I forgot Him.  And I forgot myself.
Honestly, this post is probably going to turn into something that you’re not expecting, but here it goes.  Being out here has really given me the chance to see not only my life from a new perspective, but also just life in general.  I’m so far away from everything I know that it’s not even funny.  I’ve been struggling with depression since I was nine years old, and there have been a few times in my life where it’s reared its ugly head and I was forced to admit it and confront it (to a small group of trusted individuals) before burrowing down and hiding it again.  And now I’m really really trying to break that habit. 
Being out here, I started to wonder why I’ve always been so unhappy, why I’ve always felt the need to push myself to the edge of oblivion, to run myself ragged, to always ALWAYS come out on top and to try to please everyone.  It wasn’t healthy, and I know that I had a lot to work on, but I couldn’t help but wonder why I felt such a powerful need to just be ‘good enough.’ Especially when through everything I’d done and accomplished, I still didn’t feel that way. 
And then it just sort of all came into focus.  It’s because I’ve always been fighting for people to accept me.  Not just when we were moving everywhere as a kid, but in all things and in all places.  I HAD to have people like me.  If they thought I was a bad person, then I must be a bad person. And I just couldn’t handle that.  I couldn’t stand the thought of someone thinking that I was a failure.  And it cut me deep if anyone ever did.  And I was struggling with two very different viewpoints that I was trying to cram into the same little developing personality.  One was who I wanted to be, and the other was who I was told to be. I wanted to be important, I wanted to be strong and independent and do work that would benefit society in a public way.  I wanted to be strong and outgoing and make a difference in the world.  And I was told that I would only ever find happiness by getting married and having a family.  And that I would find the most satisfaction and joy out of being a stay at home mom, with no ambition to do anything more, with no drive to work outside the home, and no higher priority than my children.
And while I deeply, deeply respect women who have made this choice and have found happiness and joy in it… for me, I’ve got to call it: Bull $&!%
The view of who I was/wanted to be and the view of who I was supposed to be just didn’t compute. And I prayed for change I prayed for the strength to want these ‘righteous’ desires immediately.  But as I have mentioned in previous posts, they never came.  So I forgot myself.  And I felt as though God had forgotten me.  But now I’m realizing that God doesn’t change a good thing.  I have things to do in this life, and I can’t do them if I’m not me.  God hasn’t forgotten me.  I’ve forgotten me.  Well, I remember now.  And I’m stronger now, but that doesn’t mean I’m na├»ve enough to think that now that I’ve had this clarity of thought that it’ll all be smooth sailing from here on out. No.  in fact, I imagine it’ll be harder, but that I now have the strength to manage it.  Not to expect myself to change but expect myself to change my environment, which isn’t that what I wanted to do in the first place?
Now I know many who would say that they had ambition but that they found happiness doing what ‘the doctrine’ tells them to do and that they’ve never felt the deep and haulting suffering that has plagued me as of late.  And they freely admit that they don’t understand, and that’s fine.  So long as they do understand one thing.
Your experiences don’t outweigh mine. 
We are on different paths. And I won’t be jealous or hate you so long as you don’t shame me or blame me for my own pain.  There is a lot of disgusting victim blaming in rape and domestic violence cases.  And there is even more in depression and anxiety cases.  In the immortal words of President Uctdorf: STOP IT.
God has not forgotten me.  He can’t.  And sometimes, it’s all too easy to forget myself and forget where I come from and where I’m going. 

I hope that these last ten blog posts have maybe helped some of you understand something about life or about me.  And I hope beyond hope that while I’m learning to stand up and speak and fight for myself, that I can inspire some seed in someone that will allow them to stand up and speak and fight for themselves as well. If that’s all I ever accomplish… it is enough. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

9. I Am Not Alone

I am not alone.  i can't tell you how many times i've felt alone.  not just because i'm religious... but just because i'm me.
it took me until i was about 14 to realize that friends were people that actually cared about you and loved you and thought a lot about you. up until then, i'm sorry to say, i was under the impression that friends were the people that put up with you for a few years until you moved away.  well, put up with me until i moved away.  i don't really know where that thought came from, maybe because we moved so much and i had to leave friends behind so many times that i just stopped allowing myself to get really close to people because then it was easier to move on when the time came.  that was before email and social networking was really a thing.
but then we moved to maryland and suddenly i had to open up. i had to trust my friends with pieces of me. and i realized that they cared about me just as much as i cared about them.  it was a pretty marvelous revelation.
so, like i said.  i've felt alone a lot.  i got into this whole, i know everyone but no one knows me shtick.  i didn't want to open up, but i was the one that people opened up to.  and it was really hard to break that habit. i always knew i was 'different' or 'special' in some way. i had seen more of the world before i was 10 than most people see in a lifetime. and i'll always be grateful for those experiences. but i have my demons, too.
and my demons happen to center around depression.
according to the ADAA (anxiety and depression association of america) the life risk of having depression is 17%, with 5-9% of the US being depressed at any given time.  being depressed, you think you're alone. you think you're not strong enough, you think you're weak, hopeless, nothing, disgusting.  and you think everyone else is perfect just the way you are.  if you were a better person, you would be like them.  but you're not. and it's because you're horrible.  and you're all alone.  you don't deserve anything.  you are the problem. just you. all by yourself.
but of course, none of this is true.  but depression, i've learned after many years of getting to know each other, is a disease of reason and logic.  reason and logic become twisted and evil, dark and dank.  and while it makes sense (in your twisted logic) it allows for no human factor. no love. no peace. no mercy.  and also, as i've learned. i'm not alone.  17% over a lifetime? that's more than 51 million people in the US alone.  and as far as extreme depression and suicides go? well... where i live didn't help with that either... where do i live? the state which is #9 for suicides per year. fantastic. but i can't blame it ALL on Utah (although i'd honestly really like to) i've got my demons and i've got to own them.
but i'm not alone. not by any stretch of the imagination.  and i've learned that, though it's been hard.  too many girls i've seen like me.  in the exact or similar situation.  i feel the worst for girls to enter depression like mine having never dealt with it before.  i was drowning, barely staying alive... and i knew exactly what was going on.  i can't imagine having the added shame and confusion of a first bout of depression mixed with the horror of what i have experienced over the last year and a half.  i really feel for those girls. and i've befriended a few.  we're not alone.  we have each other. and we have people who love us and want to help. sometimes we've just got to keep at it until the dawn finally breaks.  as hard as it may be.
but we are not alone. we are never alone.

8. No one can speak for me better than myself

I'm going to start this one out on a religious note. don't worry, we'll get to the secular stuff later.
As a Mormon... we have the Articles of Faith.  and #11 is "We claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience.  And allow all mankind the same privilege to worship how, where, and what they may."
In the last month or so, this particular article has really struck home.  I try to live it as best i can.  I'm aware of my religious beliefs and i'm also aware that Mormons, or even Christians don't have the corner on the market for good people.  I have a lot of friends.  The majority of which are not Mormon, and many of them aren't religious at all.  Worship or don't worship, so long as you're not trying to kill me or throw me in prison, i'm good with whatever you decide to do with your life.  I am, afterall, not my brother's keeper. We have freedom to choose all of us.  I can respect your beliefs, especially if you respect mine.  i can even respect your beliefs even if you don't respect mine. because i truly believe that we all have agency both moral and physical.
Now... sometimes i think Mormons forget that this applies to each other.  I claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God according to the dictates of my own conscience.  MY OWN. not yours, not any one else's. mine. and i think a lot of mormons, especially in happy valley utah, don't really get this.  There have been people i've met at BYU who 'caught' me studying on a sunday, or 'caught me' slipping out a curse word when i've stubbed my toe really hard after a long day, or 'caught me' with a can of diet coke (caffeinated) on campus.  And after having 'caught' me either lectured me on why i'm a bad mormon, why i'm sinning, or declared that i'm a bad influence and never spoke to me again.
i kid you not.
BYU just really irks me, to be honest.  i'm fine with the dress code and the honor code with few exceptions. things like facial hair... my brother (and several other of my friends) were sealed in the Temple sporting a beard.  so if you can go to the Temple with facial hair... what makes it so bad? My friend's dad was offered a stake calling, but they'd only give it to him if he shaved his mustache... because it was a 'poor example to the young men' ... seriously??
what ever happened to good ol' article of faith #11? Do we not allow all mankind, INCLUDING OUR FELLOW MORMONS, the privilege of worshiping how, where and what they may?
i include this under "no one can speak for me better than myself" because i've noticed something a bit disturbing trending the social networks, especially with my younger friends.
Some 'more experienced' people post articles bringing up a topic.  said younger friends post things that are basically pleading for advice.  which usually i wouldn't mind. we all need counsel sometimes. why not seek it out? but it's the way they ask.  they are not asking because they are gathering information.  they are saying "I'm confused about this.  someone tell me what to believe." and then, once the loudest person gets a grip on them, they're done thinking about it.
Especially again as a mormon, this is deeply disturbing to me.  We're taught about the Gospel when we're young and then we're told, commanded, encouraged to pray for ourselves and to find out for ourselves what is true and what isn't.  and i believe some things are eternally true, but also that truth is different for every person.  I can say that i believe with my whole self that God is the Eternal Father and that He sent Christ to die for us... but i'm not running off to take the veil and become a nun.  the truth for some people may lead them to a life of a nun or a nanny or a teacher or a doctor or a physicist or a parent.  that doesn't make the truth less true, only that it affects us in different ways because we are all inherently different.
no one can speak for me better than myself. and so i need to stand up and speak! and say no, i don't believe caffeine is evil.  No, i don't believe in being a housewife and only a housewife.  No i'm not ready to have kids and it's none of your @)(#*$ business anyway.  and to own it.
that's the hard part.
owning it.
but i'm getting stronger. and i'm letting my voice be heard.  i'm saying you know what? this is what i believe.  and i've found my own truth. and i can ask for respect, and from most of my friends i'll probably get it, but not from everyone. and surely not from everyone on the planet. but you know what? that's okay. because i am who i am and i'm not a bad person and i'm standing up for myself instead of shoving and slinking off to a corner. that's all.
so follow the dictates of your own conscience.  and seek out what it is you believe.  you. not what anyone tells you to believe.  don't let other 'better' people speak for you.  who is better than you for your own situation?

7. If i don't teach what I've learned, then I never learned in the first place.

This one is also pretty straightforward.  After all, when endowed with wisdom, is it not unwise to keep it to yourself? This one also leads up to the next two, but we'll get there when we get there.
I guess this one in particular is the one that is the reason for all of these posts.  if i don't teach what i've learned, then how am i supposed to remember that i learned it in the first place?
I feel this a lot when i'm seeking revelation.  I'll be praying for something but be afraid of the answer. and so when i do get the answer (more than likely the answer that i'm afraid of) i sometimes have a tendency to brush it under the rug.  I was too emotional.  it was just my own feelings, it wasn't the Spirit telling me anything.  I haven't studied it out enough.  It wasn't revelation. and then i go on and on until the very last second when finally i'm brave enough to do what needs to be done.
I'm a very private person.  You may not think that if you know me, but i am.  Chances are i've kept a lot of things from  you.  Not that i don't trust you it's just that...well... i don't really trust anyone.  not where my emotions are concerned.  not that i don't love. i love freely! i love loving people! but in my mind and in my heart... i know one day those that i love the most will also hurt me the most. or disappoint me the most.  or break my heart. and well, for a long time i figured that if i'm expecting it then it doesn't hurt as much. and i'm right.  if you're always expecting people to disappoint you, then you're never really disappointed. because you're disappointed all the time. when you expect things to go wrong, you don't fight as hard for things to go right.
If i don't share what i've learned, then i don't deserve the knowledge that i've acquired. and it will soon fade away.  truths that i once cherished will wither into nothing if i don't teach them, share them, expound upon them.  and then i won't know them anymore.

and so, for probably the first time in my life, i'm trying--REALLY trying-- to be open and speak my mind, to teach and to share what i'm feeling when i'm feeling it. and not to shove.  and it is a way of exercising and sharing what i've learned. or what i think i've learned.
and it's painful.  really and truly painful.  swallowing emotion is so easy. it's so simple. it doesn't get me into trouble or in arguements with people that i love.  it doesn't bother anyone... except me of course. it's like when you clench your fist tight for a long time and then try to open your hand. it hurts. a lot. but it's worth it. because it's hard to do things like type with a balled fist.
i hope at least some of you take this to heart.  speak up! teach, share.  everyone needs counsel every once in a while, so why not yours? who cares if you're not an expert on something, share what you THINK. because you do think, don't you? you do have some life experience. you do have perspective. and an opinion. and don't be ashamed.  so what if people don't agree. that's their problem. your job is just to share your wisdom, whatever it may be, and to be professional about it.
for some it may be easy, and for some like me it may be really really hard. but i believe that it needs to be done. and that when it is done and done with professionalism and respect, it will lead to a better life for us all.

Monday, April 8, 2013

6. Happiness is Exhausting, But Well Worth the Effort.

I have kind of a different view on Happiness than a lot of people, I think.  But it works for me, and I'll be writing about it here, so that maybe some of you can understand where I'm coming from.
To me, there is a difference between being happy, and Happiness.  you can be happy because you're at peace, or content, or excited, or satisfied, or any number of things.  But to me, Happiness is something entirely different.  To me, Happiness is something that we can't achieve in mortality.  Not for very long, anyway.
I believe in moments.  Moments of happiness that are incredible, amazing, and mystifying.  These are moments that can literally change the course of your life.  Moments of Happiness are what drives us.  I believe that we are working all the time not to be happy, but to achieve moments of Happiness.  We are driven to it, hunger for it, and when we have those perfect moments... it is enough to feed us until we find the next moment.
A friend of mine a few weeks ago posted on FB "What makes you happy?" And I took it to mean, what brings me happiness?  What triggers those moments of perfection, when all the pieces fall into place and i experience something i imagine is akin to Godlike Happiness.  My answer?
I'm not talking about pledge of allegiance and American flag type of freedom... i'm talking about something else.  And i know most of you don't know what i'm getting at, so i will elaborate.
The first time i remember experiencing Happiness was when i was in Ecuador in the summer of 2011.  We had had an amazing day as usual roaming around Tena.  We were in the back of a pickup truck taxi going about 100kph down a dark jungle road.  The sky was clear and the stars were shining and the moon was glowing and giving more light than most of us growing up near cities can imagine.  The air was hot but the wind was cool as we smiled and joked and raced past the jungle on either side, headed home for the night.
And that's when i felt it.
This pure, incredible, powerful Happiness.  I literally felt as though i could take off in flight if i wanted to.  I felt my own light radiating out from me.  I can't explain this feeling.  But i can say it was the most powerful and influential feeling i have ever felt in my life. and the simplest way i can explain it is this:
I was free.
I was about to graduate, having an incredible experience down in Ecuador.  I was getting married soon, i was the master of my own fate.  i was free to do anything.  and i could do anything.  and God loved me for who i was.
I was free.
Anything was possible.
It only lasted a moment.  But it was a moment that I think defines me.  I've been happy, i've felt joy, and excitement, and peace... but never so powerfully, and never at the same time, and never without some other reservation or feeling sneaking around in the background.  it was truly, completely, incredible.
And when i as at a low point, i hated the memory i had of this moment.  I thought it was so cruel that i knew a taste of Godlike Happiness only to fall into hellish misery.  It honestly made my sadness seem so much deeper... having fallen so far from where i once had been.
But then I came to China.  And on top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, i had a similar experience. My misery was washed away and i was left with the same feeling.  I was left with that same powerful declaration I AM FREE.  I felt as though i had broken the chains of my misery with my bare hands and escaped from the deepest, darkest, dankest dungeon that I could ever imagine.
And it only lasted a moment. With the sun shining and the wind in my hair and the knowledge that i was doing something, that i was the master of my life, and that i could decide my own fate.
And it shocked me.  It honestly did.  I was exhausted by such a heightened emotion.  even though it didn't last for very long.  The energy it took to feel such a wonderful thing sucked me dry.  Being sad doesn't take much effort... really it doesn't.  it just sort of feels inevitable sometimes.  being angry takes energy, being happy takes energy... but Happiness will fill you up and leave you feeling like you just swam five miles.
I don't believe we can achieve true Happiness in this life, mostly because i attribute the few moments of Happiness i have felt as Godlike in nature.  I believe that this is the Happiness we will achieve when we leave this life, and return to our Lord.
And so here I am, living and working in China.  When i ask myself 'when was the last time you really smiled?' the answer is no longer 'i don't remember' but rather 'oh last week when we went hiking'  or 'yesterday when the little boy ran up and hugged me tight.' i can definitely say that i am happier here than i think i ever was in Provo... don't get me wrong, i've met amazing people in provo, received a wonderful education, and had amazing jobs... but that was all mixed in with the ever present "oh she's a jack mormon" stigma that follows me from congregation to congregation in varying degrees of persecution. if provo is predominantly cookie-cutter people, i'm a banana.  or a watermelon.  it just doesn't work.
i find it really funny, though, that i'm in a communist country, yet i feel more free than i did at home in the good ol' US of A.  it's kind of ironic, don't you think?
But back on track, yes Happiness is exhausting.  really.  But it is well worth the effort.  Here I am, knowing that having moments of Happiness is possible.  And so I will go hunting for the next moment. and the next. and the next.  Until the day i die.  I will always seek after these moments, as exhausting as they are.  And they're not phony. you can't formulate them.  everything just has to fall into place and then all of a sudden you feel it.  you have a moment.  a moment that you share with no one except yourself.  a moment where you know that you are exactly who you are meant to be and are exactly where you are meant to be.  a moment where you are truly and completely free.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

5. I Am Not Being Punished

This, for me, was really hard to come to terms with.  I'm not being punished for wanting to be something more.  It's not pride, it's not that i'm not humble enough (although i'm probably not) i'm not being punished for some sin that i couldn't even recall doing.  I'm not being punished for Adam's Transgressions... i'm just me.  i'm not being punished, i'm just going through a rough patch.
and you know what? that's okay!
we all have times of difficulty and sorrow.  and it's always triggered by something different.  for some people, failing a test is the worst thing ever, or not finding a job, or getting fired, or someone you love dying, or losing a friendship.  now these are all terrible things, but they affect us differently.  For example, i have never been fired... so i don't really know what that feels like, but i do know what it feels like to fail a test (feel stupid) or not being able to find a job( feel worthless), or someone i love dying (i feel sad, but also happy that they're in a better place) and losing a friendship( this sucks... but you get over it and chug along ahead)

I remember an experience i had... Scott and i had been married not even six months and we went to the Salt Lake Temple and the visitors' center.  Now in teh visitor's center there is a big statue of Christ. and it's beautiful. it's always been one of my favorite places.  But i was so angry.  i was so upset.  I had it in my mind that i had done something to deserve the misery that was plaguing me.  But i couldn't figure out what it was.  I read the book of Job and got even more upset... but back to the statue.  I remember looking up at the statue with tears in my eyes, thinking that i was so close to Him now.  And i thought in my heart "Will you tell me now?  I'm here, right in front of you!  will you tell me now? WIll you tell me what i've done to deserve this?  Will you tell me why you're punishing me?  Will you tell me what i've done so that i can repent?  Will you tell me why you won't change me?  Will you tell me why i can't be happy?"
Needless to say, He didn't answer.  And thus began many, many months in which i couldn't feel the Spirit at all. i was too angry.  to hardened to it.  too upset by what i imagined to be my unfair punishment to even remember that God loves me.

And really, just in the last few months, i've realized that i was never being punished.  I was just suffering because of the situation.  and that God wouldn't change my whole personality just to fit into a neat little cookie-cutter.  He loved me too much to make me into something else.
I've always believed that each and every one of us has a specific purpose here on the Earth.  Now for some of us, that might be saving the world, or catching murderers, or whatever grand schemes you can imagine.  but for most of us, i think those purposes are smaller.  i think a lot of us are here to help someone, to love someone, and to protect someone.  and if God made me into someone else, someone that wasn't like me at all... then i wouldn't be able to fulfill whatever tasks He has set out for me to do.  Isn't it better to suffer for a while than to never fulfill something akin to a divine destiny?
but the suffering still sucks.
but it is a most comforting thought, to me.  I am not being punished.  I am not being purposely made miserable because i decided to get married.  I am not being plagued with demons because i don't want to be a stay at home mom.  i am not being tortured simply because i want so badly to be something more than i am.  and that, really, is all there is to it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

4. Who I Am is Not Defined By What People Think Of Me.

Number four also builds on the last two.  i am not a bad person, i am good enough... and who i am is not defined by other people.  it is defined by me and me alone.  And how true that is for each and every one of us.
"You are your own worst critic" and i think this is very true. but i think it's true because we judge ourselves the most harshly because we know ourselves the best.  Haven't you ever experienced that before?  An acquaintance offends you and it blows over in a few days, but your best friend or your sibling offends you and it's not over for weeks or longer.  I think we just judge most the people we know best. we like to think that "I judge myself on the same standards that i judge everyone else" ... and being human we assume that the people that we love or are closest to us judge us by the same standards that they judge themselves and everyone else.  So if they don't like you, or if they don't think you're doing as well as you should, or that you're a disappointment... well, we tend to believe it.
I included this point mostly because i've seen (and participated in... yes, i'm not innocent in this either) a lot of judgement through the years.  Mostly having lived in Provo.  And i've been through it, i've seen my friends go through it, and it just really makes me so sad.  I have a few friends that were criticized and judged harshly for silly, unimportant things like formula feeding instead of breast feeding, or putting off getting married until after graduation, or for girls who let their husband drop out of school because they were closer to graduation, or a couple who has been married for more than ONE YEAR and isn't pregnant or planning on having children.  There's a lot of judgement.  I've been on the receiving end of a lot of it since i got married.  More than when i as single, i think.  Mostly because when i was single i made it very clear that i didn't fit the norm and i never planned to.  well getting married was on the 'norm' list and so suddenly everyone expected me to fit into the cookie-cutter.  i have quite literally been chastised for wanting to work (apparently that's not a wife's place, let alone a woman's place) not being ready for children (you're not pregnant yet?) and not being happy at not having a job (why can't you just appreciate all your free time?)
But when you listen to only the criticisms, you start to fall backwards.  you start to believe that you're a bad person or that you're obviously not good enough. BUT YOU ARE!
You are a lovely person
you are always good enough
and they don't know what the heck they're talking about!!
who you are is your right and your right alone.  no one else can write your story but you... but it takes strength.  it takes reserve.  it takes wings that won't be broken by a single bad incidence or comment.  I think being able to pull this off, defining yourself based solely on your own perspective, regardless of what others think, is real strength.  Real resolve.  it is something to be admired.  and something to seek after. If i think i'm good enough, if i think i'm strong enough, if i think i'm faithful enough, if i think i'm good enough; then i am.  end of story.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

3. I Am Good Enough

Number three goes almost hand in hand with number 2.  you need to realize that you're not a bad person before you can accept that you are good enough.
This one, too, i think comes a lot from family pressures.  Not just in  your immediate family, but those close enough to practically be family.  Aren't we always as humans seeking for approval? But when you're not measuring up to what others may think you should be, then you've got to find the strength to say 'i'm good enough for me' and actually be satisfied with that.
Again, turning away from speculation, I reveal my own personal experiences.
I've always felt a little odd in my family, not only because i'm the only girl of the siblings, the youngest, or the redhead... but because my interests were just so different.  My  mom is a nurse, my dad is a surgeon, my brother is in pharmacy school, my other brother is also a nurse... and me?  well, when i was 17 and headed off to college, i was an English Literature major.  I had dreams of becoming a writer.
And it was made abundantly clear that that wasn't good enough.
The whole time i was growing up it was always "try your best, and that's good enough" or "do what you love and that will be good enough" "You could even major in underwater basket weaving for all we care!"... but when you declare an english major?? yeah... that all goes out the window. Apparently underwater basket weaving is more useful than an english degree...
So after numerous fights/arguements with my parents, a truce was called.  i could major in anything i wanted for undergrad, so long as i did something 'useful' for graduate school.  Which pretty much basically encompassed biology, chemistry, and/or the medical field.  And just when i thought my parents had dropped it... the topic came up again and again... it was so frustrating.  why couldn't they see that i loved writing? that i loved stories? that languages intrigued me?  that i was never going to be a nurse or a doctor or a physical therapist?  that just wasn't me?
Well, then i found linguistics and that was good enough. for a while. then i got married and couldn't find work and the economy plunged... yeah.
Sorry mom, i love you so much, but i've got to dig into our relationship a little.  mom was always sort of the driving force... i always was trying to be good enough for her instead of for me... and even after i'd gone to the jungle and got married and learned 6 languages... i still wasn't quite there.  well i called her one afternoon and we hashed it out.  it was a really wonderful conversation and really cleared the air.  i started realizing that i could be just good enough for myself and that everyone else didn't really matter.
about two weeks after this wonderful life changing conversation and revelation, i was telling her how i was thinking about going to dental hygiene school.  she was all for it... but then came the kicker "and maybe after your kids are all in school, you can go to REAL dental school!"
i just about hung up right then and there.  i didn't tell her at the time that she was doing it again.  that she was making me feel inadequate.  and i should've.  old habits die hard i guess. and while it hurt, i got over it pretty quickly.
and now i'm trying to be good enough for me.  The latin for Enough is Satis.  like satisfying, or satisfactory.  So being 'good enough' is nothing more than being satisfied with who you are.  you don't have to be satisfied with your job or your family or even your life or situation.  you just have to be satisfied with you.  and that's all that matters.  because you're not a bad person.  so why wouldn't you be good enough?

Monday, April 1, 2013

2. I Am Not A Bad Person

This, like most of the points on my list, may seem a bit obvious.  but isn't it the stuff that seems like it should be obvious sometimes the hardest things to really believe?
"I'm not a bad person, after all."
"of course you're not!"
Well... but do you ever look in the mirror and wonder?  Don't you ever feel the guilt of mortality and think that your sins are too great or will never be forgiven or that while you believe in a forgiving God, you feel detached from Him?  Do you ever listen to those critics closest to you?  And think, wow, they're so great, they're so righteous, they're so successful or perfect or strong... what they're saying about me must be true.
but it's not.  I'm not a bad person.  and neither are you.
I'm not going to speculate on this too terribly much... i'd rather just share my own insights in my own personal life.
I am not a bad person.  But i remember much more vividly the times that i believed that i was.  I was married, but wasn't happy... i must be a bad person.  I must've made a mistake.  i must've not been listening. I was married, but not pregnant or trying for children... i must be a bad person to not be desiring children.  after all, that's all a good woman wants isn't it?  to be married and have children?  That's not what i want, at least not right now, i must be a bad person.  I don't want to be a stay at home mom... that's not what's written in the proclamation.  That's not what i've been taught from the time i could crawl, that's not what has been expected of me since i hit puberty.  I must be a bad person.
I must be wicked.
I must be unrighteous.
I must be unholy.
I must be wrong.

but i'm not.

i'm not a bad person.
We talk about the Gospel like it's the same for everyone. and it's really not.  I mean, the same principals of righteousness and the law of God apply to everyone the same, but the journey is different for everyone.  we all have a different path.  And i think we forget that.  We as religious people are told so many times by so many authorities that we are not the exception... but so long as you're still obeying the law of God, it's not really an exception, is it?  So long as you're teaching your kids the principals of righteousness and setting a worthy example of the love and charity of Christ in the home... who says a mom can't work?  Who says that a dad can't stay home?  Who says that a woman who can't have kids or doesn't want kids is selfish, possessive, unworthy, unrighteous, or wicked?  What if she's just not ready yet.  And why are you sticking your nose into her very personal choices, anyway?
I spent over a year fasting and praying and begging and pleading with the Lord to change me.  Because i was so convinced that i was wrong, unworthy, wicked, unholy, and a bad person.  I begged for Him to change me.  To make me want the things that would supposedly make me righteous.  I wanted to want to be a stay at home mom.  i wanted to want kids.  i wanted to want to stay home and be happy with that.  but it was impossible.  and i never got an answer to those prayers. not because He couldn't change me, but because He wouldn't.  Because i'm not a bad person.  I'm not wrong.  I'm not unholy.  I'm just me.  And He has work for me to do, work that only i can do because i'm the only one that's me.

And that's why i love "Wreck it Ralph" so much.  "I'm bad, and that's good.  I'll never be good, and that's not bad.  There's no one i'd rather be than me." except in my case, my mantra would be more like "I'm not bad, and that's good.  I'll never be perfect, and that's not bad.  There's no one i'd rather be than me." And there's no one i can be other than me.  it really is just impossible.  I am who i am.  And who i am is not a bad person at all.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I Believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ

So this is the first of my ten commandments for self worth in faith.  here goes!

Happy Easter everyone! by the time I actually post this and people actually read it, it will be Easter in the US.  What a perfect day for me to write about Christ.
I like reading Google news... mostly because it pulls articles from all kinds of places, including conservative and liberal and libertarian sites.  which means i'm probably getting something more akin to the truth than someone who only watches Fox or CNN. But as I was scrolling through it yesterday, I saw an article that said "Christians around the world preparing for Easter." one of the lines in the first sentence caught my eye.  "Easter is the central holiday for Christianity"  Easter is the central holiday. Easter is.
But when you think of a Christian, you think about Christmas, don't you?  Isn't that the central holiday?  No. It's not.  Easter is.  We celebrate Christmas in anticipation for Christ's life and works and blessings... but Easter is when we celebrate it all being fulfilled.  Now Easter probably isn't as big a holiday because it's not as commercialized.  Sure, there's the Easter bunny, but he's not as popular as Santa.  Eggs aren't as fun as cookies, and Baby chicks are harder to keep up with than imaginary elves or flying reindeer.
But this is sort of what i want to talk about today.  Easter should be the central Christian holiday.  And it should be because it is the central doctrine around which everything is built.  it is the foundation for everything in the Gospel.
Again, i say i believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I don't believe in the Church of Jesus Christ, i don't believe in the followers of Jesus Christ, and i don't even believe in all the writings about Jesus Christ.  I believe in the Gospel.  I believe that my older Brother was sent to earth, the only begotten of the Father, to suffer and die and conquer death that we may all return to the presence of God one day.  I believe that my sins can be forgiven.  I believe that i am not perfect, but through the help of Christ as my adviser  advocate, and mediator, I can become perfect.  I believe that there is a heaven.  and that the vast majority of us are going there.
But most of all, i believe that my relationship with God is private, intimate, and personal.  I believe that no one can tell me my standing with God.  But that I can feel it.  I believe that no one is entitled to revelation for me except the servants of the Lord which are given such insight.  And I believe, most of all, that I can receive personal revelation from God as to what I should do, if I am forgiven, and what I must do to build the Kingdom and continue on my path toward Eternity.
First and foremost, I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I believe that there is hope, that there is light; that there is truth waiting for us in this life--and even more in the next.
I believe that I am a daughter.  That I am loved. and that I am precious to a Father in Heaven with infinite wisdom and love. And this is what I must never forget--lest I become wretched and torn about by the temptations, agonies, and vices of mortality.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Our Story Begins

I know, what you actually want to read is something about "Ordain Women Now" or "Prop 8 in the Supreme Court" But I really don't want to talk politics right now. Instead, I want to share some things that I've learned since I've been out here.
Now as some of you may know, I've had a hard time the last year and a half.  A really hard time.  And while some of this may seem a bit obvious, remember that there will be times in your life when it is not.  This is the start of a series of posts that will outline Cate's Ten Commandments of self-worth in faith.  I will list them here, and will write one post for each and then perhaps a conclusion at the end. I hope you can read along with me and feel what I'm feeling and I hope that maybe it will help some of you or just someone that is struggling.
So... without further ado... here we go!

1. I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ

2. I am not a bad person

3. I am good enough

4. Who I am is not defined by what people think of me.

5.  I am not being punished for my desires to be something more than I am.

6.  Happiness is exhausting, but well worth the effort.

7.  If I don't teach what I learned, then I never really learned it in the first place.

8.  No one can speak for me better than myself.

9.  I am not alone

10.  God has not forgotten me.

So be looking out for my next ten entries.