Friday, June 7, 2013

Don't call it a Comeback

After 2.5 years in the workforce, I have taken myself out of the game again. I'm ready to be at home and be the mom that has enough emotional energy at the end of the day to enjoy being with three little kids. When I started this blog, there was a part of me that really needed an outlet and a way to work through things that I either didn't understand or couldn't control. I now just want to get my feelings down and share them with people. I have learned that when darkness rises up in my unbidden, the best thing I can do is to cast light on it, let others see it. I then am not in my darkness alone and my darkness doesn't like company. It's so counterintuitive and exactly what we don't want to do...share our darkness with others, but it is the solution. I am so grateful when I can feel good being me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


almost all of us just want to be happy, or at least content. it seems so simple and yet it is so elusive. many people attribute their lack of happiness to some lack they find in someone close to them, like it's not their fault they're not happy. i would submit that the greatest source of malcontent in our lives is unmet expectations. whether those expectations are of ourselves, our spouses, our kids, our parents, our friends or our employers, they are the root of unhappiness. am i saying to lower your standards? to some extent, yes. some would argue that to lower our standard of expectation for a loved one would invite even less performance from them. i beg to differ. i believe a lowering of expectations frees a person to perform to the best of their ability, which is really all we can ask of anyone anyway. the problem with an expectation is that it dictates to our minds what to expect oftentimes without having a basis in reality.
the victim of expectations to whom we can do the most damage is ourself. expecting all of the things we think we should be accomplishing blinds us to the things that we are achieving and leaves us feeling increasingly insignificant. it is easy as a man or woman in today's world to heap so many expectations on ourselves that we become paralyzed trying to accomplish them.
a parent expects a certain grade from a child in the child's math class. not every brain grasps the concepts of math and not every child will get an 'A'. That expectation can cripple a child as he fears failure and is unable to relax and learn. he know that negative consequences accompany that unmet expectation and he does not want to disappoint his parents. at the same time, trying his absolute best involving studying and outside help he gets a 'B' (an incredible achievement for this particular child in this particular class) and must go home to face recrimination and accusation. this may seem like a minor example, but it will effect the child's math career and possibly entire academic career as he realizes that his very best effort just isn't enough for his parents.
it becomes even more destructive in a relationship with a spouse. when i expect my husband to do certain things, there is no recognition of him actually having done something, just a fulfilled expectation. how much more enjoyable would married life be if we didn't expect anything and as a result were constantly surprised and grateful for the small acts of kindness performed by our spouse? again, some would argue that lowering expectations would engender a decrease in desired activity. this is simply not true because it is human nature to try to please those we love. if those efforts are rewarded, we try even harder. if we don't reward behavior because it was just expected, we diminish the motivation to do more or even do as much as we did. just be happy with whatever happens on valentine's day and recognize that the other 364 days are a better indication of someone's love. just know that expecting a clean house when you get home won't make it happen, but noticing it might. children want so much to make us proud of them, but their energies will find other outlets if we never recognize their best efforts. "best effort" means something different for every person. imagine a world where we acknowledged the things people do and didn't just expect it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

the beginning

I've been thinking about my life and the struggles that i have and at the same time i look at how good i have it. it has made me want to get it all down in writing and figure out how to make the good even better and to eliminate the bad. there are things about myself i'd like to change, but up to this point have been unable. this is my venue and this is my place for the most complete honesty i can find and the most unshielded i've probably ever let myself be. as a mom, i've seen things about my own life that i probably would not have otherwise seen. i recognize the roots of some of my struggles in the things that my parents did. i also see that they weren't intentional and are forgivable, but would at this point, now knowing what i know, be unforgivable in me as a parent. i've decided that the one thing our children need (once you get past the very essentials of food, shelter and warmth) is love and acceptance (which is, in fact two things, closely tied and inseparable). For me, when i finally am able to go back and look at things as though through another's eyes, i finally see what i've not been seeing all of these years. i came into this world a tomboy, i have no doubt about it. there is a chance that having 3 older brothers made that characteristic even more pronounced than it would have already been, but i'm fairly certain that that was in my genes. i see now that a child can be destroyed very early and very quickly by the very people that are supposed to love that child. and the destruction doesn't come from beatings or even being told unkind things. this destruction that i'm speaking of comes from a fundamental rejection of a person's essence, of the very being of that person as something unwanted and aberrant. there was early on in my life an obvious (so obvious in fact that it took me 33 years to see it) rejection of parts of my personality. specifically, those parts of my personality that would have been appropriate had I been born a boy. interestingly, i was not born a boy, i just wanted to do every single thing that boys want to do and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the things girls want to do. for some reason, that i may never understand, the person most responsible for my feeling love and acceptance was the very source of my rejection. In no way do i say that that rejection was intentional or even conscious, nevertheless that rejection encapsulated my feelings for myself and drove them into a place from which i am still climbing. My mom had three boys. She was so amazed to have a girl that when i was born and she was told the gender, she replied, "a what?". How disappointing to have your long-awaited girl end up acting just like your boys. thankfully, not long after, a much girlier girl came along and solved the need for a daughter. i was an unknown, what do you do with a girl that acts like a boy. well, now that i've lived through this, my answer would be "love her just the way she is" however that's not exaclty how it played out in my life. i'm not sure how to define the feelings that existed for me, because they are not mine, but i know how i ended up feeling. i have 3 big brothers ( and i mean big, especially compared to me when i was a little girl.) all i wanted in life was to do what they did and be with them, to the point that i would have done anything to make that happen. the one real problem with that was that the rejection that came from my mom ended up carrying over to my brothers and so their rejection was justified. it was okay to beat me up for wearing their clothes, because that was something that i was unequivocally forbidden from doing. (something i let my little girl do whenever she wants...go figure). i've been told that when my brothers planned their day each and every day of our childhood, their first order of business was to work into that plan the best way to exclude me.. yeah, that was hard to hear. when i finally started to really look at this and understand why i'm the way i am, i got pretty angry. i realized that instead of being pummeled both physically and emotionally every day of my life, i could have been loved and protected. instead of being rejected, i could have been included. i now know this is true, because my girly little sister ( i mean that in a nice way) was protected. if a hand was laid on her, it was practically a death sentence. why, then, was it not that way for me? i was not my mom's little girl. i should have been, but i wasn't and she didn't know what to do with what i was. this has carried over so completely that i still will rarely shop for myself, not because i hate shopping, but because i hate thinking about how not like a woman i feel when i'm shopping. how my insecurity is so deep that a make-up counter attendant had to match my color with my neck because i couldn't stop blushing. i'm now beginning to understand how long it takes to heal. it doesn't matter what you give your kids, what you feed them, what you clothe them in, what you read to them...all that matters is that you love them for EXACTLY who they are, even if what they are is something you don't understand. There was never a day of feeling pretty or cute, feeling like anything but the ugly friend. it's crazy how much of what we are is decided even before we have a say. no wonder our lives are spent trying to recover from our childhood. i know there are some that come out of childhood happy and healthy, i hope my kids will be able to count themselves in with that group.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Therefore God gave unto them commandments...

after having made known unto them the plan of redemption (Alma 32:12). I've always found this passage interesting because it is so different from how we generally teach the gospel and the commandments to our children. If God allowed us to know the plan of redemption before giving us commandments, hasn't He then established a pattern for us to follow with our own children? If a child is old enough to understand that he should do or not do certain things, then is he not also old enough to be given a reason? When a person understands the why, it is so much easier for him to accept the thing being taught. Yet, often, we teach the rules and the commandments long before we teach the why, which is the joy that comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we teach our children by constantly keeping the things we are teaching in the context of the plan of salvation, then the commandments we teach them to live will not seem arbitrary, but as Joseph Smith taught, "God has designed our happiness. He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith). If we truly believe this statement, we will teach our children to find the ways that each commandment can bring them happiness. This will allow them to gain their own testimony of the commandments. It is not enough to just have a testimony of the Church, that is too vague and broad. We each need to discover for ourselves a firm belief or knowledge in each of the things we espouse to believe starting with the existence and love of God the Father, continuing to the Atonement of Jesus Christ and its impact on our lives personally all the way through an understanding of each and every commandment. I believe that the full measure of happiness offered in conjunction with each commandment cannot be attained without an understanding and assurance of the divinity of that commandment. God has designed our happiness, and yet we often find ourselves unhappy. Interestingly, that unhappiness is rarely a reaction to the external hardships we face, but rather the internal conflicts that come from not understanding our place in God's plan or the place for God's plan in our lives.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I'd like to bear my testimony...

Have you ever been to a fast and testimony meeting and listened to it as if you had never been to our church before?  The first thing that strikes me, when I do this, is the phrase that almost all children say. They could be anywhere from 2-20 years old and most of the time their testimony begins with, "i'd like to bear my testimony, i know the church is true".  Now, i've noticed that you rarely hear adults begin their testimonies this way.  Why do we continue to insist that our children utter these magic testimony words?  How can they, at 3, "know the church is true"? Many people at 30 are still trying to figure that out for sure.  I understand the faith of a child and that they have an innocence and understanding that many of us lose as we work our way into adulthood.  At the same time, when said by every single child and prompted by every parent, it sounds very rote and almost ritualistic.  A testimony is still a testimony without these words as its precursor.  I love to see and hear children bear their testimonies and share their feelings and experiences.  I feel like the repetition of this phrase cheapens it and makes it feel like something that you just say, without feeling and without thought. Unfortunately, it feels much like the close of a testimony, "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." When we invoke the name of the Savior at the end of our testimonies, we are inviting His stamp of approval on the things we've said.  However, often times we rush through "inthenameaJesusChristamen". It feels like we sometimes put the same amount of thought and feeling into the beginning and the end of our testimonies...that is- very little or no thought and feeling.  I think as parents, we can do more for our children by talking about how Christ is influencing their lives than teaching them to repeat the words "i'd like to bear my testimony, i know this church is true".  They need to understand what a testimony is and that it centers around Christ and the truly important aspects of the gospel.  Also, teaching them to respect the name of the Savior when they close their testimonies and their prayers, and to think about Him as they say His name.  I think when the church sends out letters about children's participation in testimony meeting, it is simply to eliminate rote, memorized words that everyone repeats, without thought or feeling.  When children stand and share their feelings, the things that are happening to them, it brings the influence of the Spirit in a powerful way.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Law of Moses vs. The Two Great Commandments

What's easier to live? I have no idea how most people would answer that question. It would depend a lot on the type of person you are. Are you a list-maker? Do you like to quantify success? We in the church, by nature of all of the things we can/can't or should/shouldn't do can easily begin to look at life in the context of the law of moses. We talk about the 613 mitzvot (commandments that are binding on Jews) and sometimes I believe we look at life with a similar quantification about right and wrong. Why do we need all of the rules we have? Christ gave us two: to love God and to love one's neighbor. It seems so much easier to follow that dogma than the law of Moses, and yet, is it easier? Well, for a lot of people that would depend on how you define neighbor. If by neighbor you mean just the people that make you comfortable, then yes that might be easier. But...if by that you use Christ's broader definition as laid out in the parable of the Good Samaritan, then it might be a little tougher. For many people, the checklist brings more comfort and satisfaction than loving people that make us uncomfortable. If I can go through my week doing all of the things that I should, at the same time avoiding all the things i'm supposed to avoid, i can look at that week, breathe a sigh of relief, disregard the atonement (because i've done everything "right") and go on to the next week. What's the problem with that? Well, it depends on our "why". Christ condemned the pharisees and sadducees for following the law of moses hypocritically, "only to be seen". In today's lingo we would call it doing it for the sake of one's image. If our image is our reason, then we "have our reward". We walk a sad road when our true meaning in life comes in following a checklist of guidelines, because of what it would look like to others if we didn't. The gospel of Jesus Christ was designed to bring joy, and if we live it by following the two great commandments, then we will find that joy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Taking care of me

There are so many ways to neglect yourself. The neglect can be in time not spent caring for oneself. It can be in thought spent worrying about what other people think about us. Or, we often times horribly abuse ourselves becoming emotionally involved in the problems of others, especially problems upon which we can not possibly have any influence. We are very easy to abuse, because self-abuse comes so naturally. When we spend all of our time caring for others (as Christ-like as that sounds) and leave ourselves empty we are actually not following Christ's example. He gave us the model of taking time for Himself. He spent time in the wilderness in communion with the Father, He spent time with people He enjoyed (even when the Pharisees criticized Him for His choice of company). What is our wilderness, where do we fill up? We each need to find that place that is for us. It may be different for every person. I have a few places in the wilderness. Girls' night with my sisters, anytime I can play volleyball and reading a good novel are probably the ones that do the most for me. I believe that in the Lord's admonition in Matthew 25 to serve, he includes us. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these..." I am the least of these and when I serve myself, when I take care of myself, when I acknowledge that I have feelings, when I understand that I have worth, then I have done the same to my Savior. We must keep ourselves safe from the people that would cause us worry, guilt and shame. Many discussions have occurred in my family centering around the idea of codependency (with its variety of definitions and explanations). The two aspects of codependency of which I have to be the most aware are: letting myself be affected by what other people think and by what other people do. In the church, it is so easy to care what other people think and to compare and to self-criticize. There's no need, the opinions of the people around us really don't matter. What matters is our opinion of ourself. It's a difficult thing to look oneself in the eye and recognize and be able to vocalize things that are good. Most people could easily come up with many of their own faults, but be hard-pressed to think of good qualities and be willing to share them aloud. Involving the other type of codependence I mentioned, people can lay their problems on us, because we let them. when someone shares a problem, our responsibility lies in the sympathy/empathy realm and not solving/internalizing. I can't control what anyone else does (sadly enough, not even my 3-year-old), so why fill my soul with the burden of other people's choices? Looking out for myself first and foremost by maintaining emotional health may to some sound selfish, but therein lies the only way to truly serve others with all of our heart, because it is a whole heart.