Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reflection: Under Pressure

Edit: This is a post I wrote a year ago, that I reverted back to it's "draft" form within a few hours of publishing it. But I think I'm okay with it existing in the universe now. Because I've been able to step further away, and the anger has dissipated. I don't feel the hurt so strongly these days, which I count as a major success in personal growth. I still feel like I'm disappointing people, but the truth is that the disappointment they feel isn't my problem/fault/responsibility.

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There's always been a heavy pressure for me to make something of myself. To make an impact. I'm trying to figure out where the pressure comes from. I know most of it is pressure I put on myself. Some of it is unintended pressure that I've received from others throughout my life. My mom will sometimes make comments about, "If I had just a thimbleful of your talent..." as though I'm wasting some precious gift. Lots of it was pressure from people I was told I could trust. Having grown up in the Mormon church, there's a lot of expectation placed on using one's talents- that if you don't use the gifts God has given you, that you'll lose them, which is, frankly, a terrible lie. No one has the power to rob you of your heart. That's something I always knew, even though I was threatened otherwise.

Every so often (fairly often, recently), I have these PTSD moments where I question my entire foundation. I get so angry. I hate feeling anger, more than anything else. I'm angry at the Church, I'm angry at the leaders who taught me these things, I'm angry at my parents, I'm angry at myself for being so trusting. I want to scream. I hate knowing that for the majority of my life, my kindheartedness was taken advantage of. I'm not sorry for having that trait. It's one of the things I like most about myself, but it also makes things difficult. When I feel this anger and my heart speeds up and I cry, I am so afraid. I'm afraid it will never be gone. I'm afraid that the things I was taught growing up (the wrong things, not the good ones) will never stop creeping into my mind. The pressure to be a mother because that's "every woman's calling in life." The disappointment I know my family feels because we plan on adopting... because that doesn't involve "multiplying and replenishing the earth." The judgment I know I receive because I choose to wear "immodest clothing" and sometimes drink coffee. The sadness my parents (Declan's, too) must feel because they truly believe that our "inactivity" in the church will bring the consequence of them not being able to see us in the afterlife.

Seriously, how awful is that? They really believe that our choice to "ignore the blessings of the temple" is going to keep us apart for eternity. Eternity! What god would do that? Yet, they continue to spend money and time to be part of an organization that is telling them that their children aren't good enough. And I know they believe it. And there's nothing I can do to get that love and pride back. They're always going to see me as less-than. A disappointment. I know my parents feel like they're the ones who failed. I hate that they feel this way- that they were made to feel that way by an organization that claims to support them.

I hate feeling guilty for making healthy and rational decisions. There's nothing sensible in feeling bad for protecting myself from doctrine that caused me pain. I hate that I have to regularly take stock of my life and realize that I am good enough, that I deserve to be happy, regardless of what the Church is telling our families- regardless of what the Church told me.

I am loving and kind and gentle and creative and those are traits that are mine- not talents on loan from God. I will cultivate them out of love, not fear.

I will continue to love my parents (and Declan's) even though they see us as somehow tarnished. Even though they undoubtedly pray daily for us to come back. But we won't. And that hurts them. I wish they could see that I am the same person I've always been, but better.

I know that in order to stop these repeated breakdowns, I need to work through the pain and anger and make something of it, before I can make peace with it. So, I'm going to make something. I might hate it, but it needs to happen.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Once Upon a Time: A Letter to My Younger Self

"Know what? If I could eat anything right now, I'd make scones... Whip up some vanilla cream, and warm up some raspberry jam- the kind with the seeds..."

"I won't eat. I'm scared to. If I eat then I don't know what will make me different enough for people to want to notice me. If I eat then I'll be like everyone else."

This is from my journal/food diary from 10 years ago, back when a "good day" meant eating part of an apple and half a graham cracker and nothing else. It made me cry- remembering how I deprived myself of even the simplest of life's pleasures. If I didn't deserve something as small as that, it's no wonder I believed I didn't deserve happiness/love/beauty.

If I could, I'd go back to that time and tell my younger self a thing or two. I'd show her the scars. How they've healed enough to where no one notices them, but that I remember making them, and I remember the darkness and the cold and the fear. 

And so...

To my 18 year old self,

You're worth caring for, even on days when you don't feel it. Those days will be fewer and less frequent, even though they may seem endless now. 

Do something small for yourself every day. It makes doing things for other people a joy instead of a burden. You have a big heart, and you'll be too exhausted to open it to others until you open it to yourself.

It will be extraordinarily difficult- mentally and physically. No one warns you about that. You'll be gaining what seems like a lot of weight. You'll have days where your reflection in the mirror will bring you to tears, or even into hysterics. But those days will be fewer and less frequent. (You'll like your curves someday, I promise.)

You're stronger than you give yourself credit for. And smarter. And more brave/beautiful/loving than you know. The sooner you start taking care of yourself the sooner you'll realize this. Take ownership of those qualities. You cultivated your own character.

People will notice you.They'll see your kind heart. They'll see love. They'll see generosity. They won't care about your impossible goals for physical perfection because these goals ultimately won't matter. At all. This pursuit of control will only bring you pain, so let it go.

You're going to be so happy, and sooner than you think. But you can't get there until you decide to start on that path, and when you do, I'll be there.

I love you, even though you don't (yet).