*Image credit: Gardner Edmunds
It’s December 17th today, I am sitting in my office (the Panera Bread location) and enjoying the high of just mailing the last of my christmas gifts. It’s a short-lived high. My to do list, is still a thick, itchy, wool scarf… wrapped entirely too tightly around my neck.
I don’t have time to be writing this. But, if you are a follower of mine, you might recognize that I seem to NEVER have time for this anymore. And there, my dears, is a dilemma. Because much to my dismay, I have a lot of complicated needs to keep me from diving into a pit of despair and self-flagellation.
Two most important: I must exercise regularly. And I must write things…to download these emotions that pile up like the mountain of mail order catalogues that are swallowing my kitchen table.
The real thing I should be doing right NOW, is writing a paper. A six page reflective essay relating to a book about development of the western mind since Zeus ruled the heavens. An essay, due today, on “the identification and interpretation of personal beliefs that influence the creation of meaning in your life.”
Can’t I just turn in a link to my blog instead? It is ridiculous that this assignment has me hand-wringing, since I have thought of little else in my life over the last ten years. In addition to grocery lists and christmas cards and the fact that I am still wearing toenail polish put on my toes in August, my brain is mostly occupied with huge, all-encompassing things like GOD. And Guilt. And Spirit. And Shame. And Worthiness. And Judgement. And Redemption. And Soul-Crushing Inadequacy.
Here is the thing, about my personal beliefs. And how they affect my daily life… This mess, that I need to neatly roll into a beautiful, personal, reflective, six page, double spaced essay:
First, an internal audit of my beliefs. And, I find an overwhelming recognition that the toxic, corrosive, divisive, emotionally blackmailing, schizophrenic, mainstream religious cult that me and five generations of people I love have been marinating in… is still offering me plentiful chances to learn forgiveness and acceptance and self compassion.
It has been ten years of really hard work, to unravel so much of the control the religious training had over my life. Like a comically long and preposterous to do list, I have taken care of obvious ones, like wearing the kind of underwear I want to, and the not so obvious ones, like redefining my feelings about sex and morality. Throwing out the devastating metaphors of girls being a “licked cupcake” or “Already Chewed Gum” when they decide to become sexual beings has been a serious chore.
It has been almost ten years of liberation and excavation. Now, I am free to have a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, wear a tank top, drop the F bomb, watch a rated R movie, buy a bag of apples on sunday or read a book about anything I wish. And I can do those things without guilt! I now know that strong families and sincere love and limitless joy and unfathomable generosity exist outside of mormon life.
I can watch clips like this one, and see men I was taught were infallible prophets to revere and to digest their words as God’s words, and finally hear the controlling patriarchal rhetoric and the dark stream of damage that runs through the doctrines and teachings of the faith I was born in, those things I had once taught and defended as Truth. I have ferociously fought off ingrained belief that my only purpose in this life is to be a support for my husband, and bear children and be obedient to men who know better than I. I have had to challenge myself to rethink what it means to love someone, what the difference is between faith and magic, how to draw appropriate boundaries for myself and my children.
Much of the DOING is DONE. There is not much left to DO, when it comes to creating concrete distance between myself and the LDS religion. So imagine the rude awakening I have had, when I came to the end of that to do list and unwrapped that itchy scarf, ready to breathe freely and be done with the Deprogram the Mormonism Program, and find that the really painful damage, the deepest, darkest wounds… were underneath the all that doing. The unwrapping has revealed what is left…. raw and dangerous emotion.
Over the past ten years, I have also been busy discovering and declaring what it is I believe. It has been exhilarating and freeing and I have felt relief and unimaginable joy in the self discovery.
Every human being has inherent worth. Worthiness is implicit.
There is nothing to prove.
There is nothing to earn.
What happens after this life is NONE OF MY BUSINESS.
The purpose of my life is to practice living each moment in the present.
I am adequate.
Every person longs to be seen and heard.
Good and evil are judgments. There is only fear and love.
Staying OPEN is the only goal.
Being CLOSED is part of the process. I will be open to that too.
There is no need to define the Divine.
These things I can comfortably and passionately declare as my belief system. My list has been scrubbed free from the doctrine I was immersed in since birth. The trouble is, now that the doing has been done, when I look at myself in the mirror, there is still the mormon girl staring back.
The doing has not created the being.
The act of writing those words sends pain rushing up to my throat like hot bile. It threatens to expose me. It is the recognition that the actions taken over the last decade, as terrifying and disorienting and inspiring as they have been, have not healed the anguishing canyon that exists in my soul. On one side, the powerful, complete woman who embodies that list of beliefs, and on the other, a weeping girl who will never be worthy or adequate or whole.
I have come to the very edge of that abyss.
Maybe the only thing I really believe right now, is that I am not alone here, on this edge. I know my story is not unique. We are all good at the doing. The doing, no matter what is on that list, or how tightly it threatens to strangle us, is a matter of overcoming inertia.
But to be in alignment with our true beliefs, to begin to stitch up the giant chasm within us…requires the being.
Being is where things get real.
There is no doing left for me here. Not when it comes to healing my spirit. And the being is the excruciating part. The part where the emotions must be felt. The part where the feelings must be allowed to exist. The part where true compassion is discovered. The part where I simply exist.
I don’t really know how. But I know there is no try… that is a doing word.
So for now, I will just breathe.