Monday, March 31, 2014

Visiting Teacher

I set up an appointment with my visiting teachers.  Only Courtney came, and brought her incredible and beautiful children with her.  I wanted to meet with her to let her know how much I appreciate and love her and her example of love.  I told her that I resigned as Relief Society President which opened up the conversation as to why.  I told her that this past year that I've felt safe and secure enough to open up a symbolic file box of questions I've had since I was very young; as young as eight.  I wanted to ask myself what I know, what I believe, and what I hope for.  I told her that it led me to discover about myself that I know that love and serving others is the prescription for a beautiful life, that doing your best to be honest with yourself and your heart is best even if others are hurt by how you feel.  That I know nothing of after this life, and that I'm okay with that, and even have joy taking back the beauty and wonder and awe of not knowing.  That I hope that there is a God, and that the idea of Jesus is the closest thing to a God that I can understand of a God, but that I don't know and don't believe that others can know of God.  I believe that the human mind is an incredible thing, hopefully designed by God, but that our minds alone can create awe, wonder, perceptions of others needs, and can become emotional simply because of how complex and beautiful our minds are.  She asked if I would be coming back to church, and I said I think so, but I don't know.  I'm not sure about this because so much of what I hear of in church is just plain magical thinking, and it is like nails on a chalkboard spending so much time and energy talking of things that aren't here yet.  I'm ready to be in the here and now.  I'm ready to embrace how I feel today, and to be okay with what may come.  I'm okay with knowing that I'm not a "fallen" spirit, or an apostate as I've been taught, but that I am at peace with meeting whoever it is on the other side, if that comes, and embracing that being of intelligence with my honest heart.  I believe that sharing your heart and being as honest as you can with these matters is the best way to live.  I am emotional at witnessing love of others, and my mind is capable of amazing things I never knew possible.

Finding Peace!

March 30, 2014
1. To set free from confinement, restraint, or bondage.
2. To free from something that binds, fastens, or holds back; let go.
3. To dismiss, as from a job.
4. To relieve of debt or obligation.
5. To relieve of care and suffering.

With my heart pounding, I approached the bishop today and asked if I could meet with him briefly during Sunday School. Upon meeting with him, I told him that I needed to resign. I then told him why? When he asked what led to this, I said it was hard to explain, but that I think that this is the first time in my adult life that I've felt safe and secure enough in my marriage and in myself to "open up the file box". I told him that since a very young age, that I've put questions, concerns, and other faith testing issues away in a mental file box, and that the past year and last few weeks, I've allowed myself to explore how I feel. He asked if I feel alone? I said that I don't, and that I like the idea of Christ, but that I don't know and I'm okay with not knowing, and that I even like the idea that perhaps there is something totally different after this life. I feel there is something to the human experience of loving, serving, and caring for others and that serving as RS President has helped me learn what I do believe. That we need to love each other and serve each other, not hurt ourselves and strive not to hurt others. That we need to be forgiving. Our meeting ended with him reminding me to continue to pray or meditate, and to remember that the church as withstood the test of time. I quietly and respectfully disagreed in my heart that longevity in something somehow equates truth, but felt love and compassion for him taking the time to offer me counsel.  At the close of an emotional relief society meeting, the presidency approached me about a presidency meeting we'd hope to do that evening.  I knew I needed to be honest and up front with them and asked that they meet me briefly on the stage....the only place not full of people at that hour.  After church, I tearfully told the RS Presidency that I was resigning. We laughed, we cried, and they accepted my decision.  I've been, for the large part, mostly avoided by them since Sunday which I understand completely.

It's been five hours since church got out, and I'm completely emotionally exhausted. I knew this would be hard emotionally, but its super intense. My counselors we're wonderful and I was honest with them but brief. I said that I'm in a faith crisis, but it's significant enough that I can't continue. They we're loving, but were very shocked. I also made it a point to let each of them know that they've all been outstanding in the presidency and nothing they did had anything to do with how I feel.

Friday, March 28, 2014

My mind took the RED PILL

The moment that truth became more important 
than my need to be right…. 
the shelf collapsed unbelievably fast.

I think these are going to be some important and random thoughts and changes in my mind that I wanted documented in my "life blog".

March 25 at 12:09pm
My first e-mail was sent to John Dehlin who I found at after desperately searching for someone to talk to who I suspected had been through a similar experience, and who I suspected, may have been able to help me find the support network I knew I'd need.
Here's what's going on. I'm a fifth generation Mormon. I've been the Relief Society President for almost a year now, and the past few weeks, I've felt like I've discovered that Santa isn't real. I don't have a single event, but the culmination of many thoughts, and just ideas that have fit together in a flash to make one whole idea that has left me to question most of my religious beliefs since childhood. I'm 40, and wise enough, I think, not to throw the baby out with the bath water, but I'm not sure what to do about my role as RS President. If I'm just facing this at the age of 40, I really don't want to cause others to question their faith by abruptly stepping down as I feel a "do no harm" obligation to the 100+ sisters I lead.

But, I feel like getting back to where I was would be like starting to believe in Santa again when I got to the place of figuring out it was just my parents; kind of tough to go back.   I'm sort of feeling like I've been cheated on with the church, and am feeling a bit betrayed, manipulated, and frustrated but there are just too many doctrines that are difficult at best to reconcile. And, with this shift, it really doesn't matter about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the doctrines now, I just don't believe anymore.

Any suggestions? My thought is just to cope with this myself and with meditation and to stay the course. My parents just accepted a mission call. I "came out" about this to my husband, and he's felt the same doctrinal dilemmas for years but loves our family and me and didn't want to hurt his marriage; felt like him questioning his belief in certain doctrines would hurt his marriage to me...and to be honest, it may have before I felt like this. 
I love my calling, but just feel like I'm in uncharted waters. Can I still lead and encourage with no belief system anymore?  Okay, I believe some things.  Like I believe that we should love (serve) others, and avoid hurting ourselves and others.

John linked me up with a support group for sisters who had husbands in high responsibility callings, or who were in callings themselves with high responsibilities.  Here are some random comments.
March 25 at 12:17pm my son professed he didn't believe anymore at 17 after finishing 4 years of early morning seminary. He's 19 now and lives with a friend in our neighborhood. My daughter is 15, son is 8, and baby girl is 2. I think that time is what I need. My husband seems happier recently knowing he's not alone with me in how he feels. He's a high priest and has very high moral standards.

I think it would be hard either way if one spouse doubted, and the other doesn't. To be honest, until that "shift" I would describe took place recently in my mind, I would have quickly felt that my husband was leading me "astray" if he had discussed doubts with me and would have felt super threatened by him trying to convince me. I'm sure he's had doubts for years and years, but didn't tell me until I opened up just recently about my own doubts. 

Honestly, I don't think anything could have rushed me into this decision in my mind. It happened for me, at my pace, when my mind was ready to accept what I'd denied for a long time. And those convictions of spirit were part of what had me cross over. 

People in other religions experience these same convictions, stirrings in their hearts, and "witnesses". Mormons aren't the only ones "sure" about what they feel in their hearts. The problem is that the complex human mind can create all kinds of stuff; convictions, bad feelings, good feelings, overwhelming feelings of unity and togetherness (the temple and temple dedications), but that doesn't create KNOW for me. Once I reached the place that if your conviction is "knowing" because of what you've felt, I realized that there is a problem. You can hope, you can believe, and you can feel strongly about anything, but knowing about anything of the spiritual nature doesn't hold water with me. 

March 28 at 11:07am
Last night I woke up in the middle of the night wishing I didn't feel this way and I could change my mind back again. I feel like I'm losing a loved one after 40 years. I've decided to tell the bishop how I feel and that I think it would be best to be released as RS President. The frustrating thing is that I used to pray about stuff like this. Now I really just have to follow my heart. As much as I love my calling, I've always been proud of my integrity I've developed in my adult years. Perhaps some day I can lead a women's organization that celebrates service and love, and respects doing no harm to yourself or others. Should I tell my counselors and secretary first?

Okay, plan is to give myself more time. Thank you to these inspiring words, and all you the support I've found in a support group. This is exactly WHY I felt I needed a support group. Please keep reminding me not to do anything drastic! “ Religion is a realization -- not talk, not doctrine, nor theories -- however beautiful these may be. Religion is being and becoming, not hearing and acknowledging. It is not an intellectual ascent -- but the transformation of one’s whole life.” Swami Vivekandanda

Potential practical downsides to public resignation Somewhat selfish/narcissistic -- your problems are not always their problems Seems to lead to a downward spiral of cynicism, bitterness and negativity High risk of alienation from LDS family, friends, and community Can be highly disruptive to children / marriages Important life decisions should rarely be made from a place of anger and pure emotion Would you sell a car or house without having a replacement plan? Gives you little room (from an ego perspective) to change your mind later.

Where is all began for me last year was me questioning my own "knows". It was a change of heart that had me realize that I don't "know" anything. I excitedly told my sister that I don't "know" anything, and she said "are you a doubting Thomas now?" in a not nice tone, and proceeded to list the ways she "knows". I understand that "know" means stuff very different to different people, but it feels to me that by saying that, you may also be saying that if you don't "know", you're not part of the club yet, really.

Perhaps there is something to empathy and compassion for others that is a biological food for our minds. To me it boils down to I don't know, but I am happier when helping others as long as it is in moderation. Meaning, I need to stay healthy and alive by taking care of my body and mind first, then as I have physical and emotional space, I can share with others (spouse, children, extended family, friends, etc). This is a very different mantra I feel than the culture of serving others at the expense many times of your own wellbeing. I've found my ability to care for me and how well I'm doing this corresponds to my capacity to give and love and serve others.

As I mentioned before, I'm taking it one day at a time. One thing I learned back in college in a class, was that when ANY crisis occurs, to try to keep doing the things you do every day like eat when you're hungry (and feed your kids dinner every night except when you need to order out), exercise (as much as you used to before it), and be mindful (of your heart). I'm still on a roller coaster of emotion, but I'm thankful to be enduring this when I'm 40 instead of in my Sociology of Religion class in my early 20's. So, today I'd love your comparisons, analogies, and metaphors to this experience. My best so far is that I took the red pill (Matrix). I discovered I was in Mormon River Rapids and I've just grabbed onto a branch to pull myself out. I'd love to hear other metaphors?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lower your expectations.

Last night my sweet husband got home late after a very long day at work.  I was excited to see him, and excited to tell him about the steak steak dinner I saved had in the refrigerator from my trip to Denny's earlier with our three kids.  After he changed out of his clothes, he climbed into bed to warm up his cold feet.

Typically he'll go back downstairs and heat up his own dinner, but tonight, he seemed extra tired, so I offered to get it heated up for him so he could stay in bed.  One of my favorite hobbies is watching my husband eat something he likes, and steak, in any form, is one of his favorites.  With all the kids to bed, and both of us ready for down time, we attempted to very briefly discuss our day.  When he asked me about a text I didn't get, he was mildly irritated that I didn't read it and that I had read a text after it.  I quickly became irritated that he was mad I missed a text message, and protested saying that this is why mobile phones are such a trap. More unkind words were exchanged between both of us, and I stormed downstairs.
After completing busy work at my desk, an hour had passed and I went upstairs to go to bed. I briefly folded laundry after some initial attempts at conversation showed we were both still irritated about the same issue.  Tired, I decided to turn in to bed.  Typically, my husband will also go to bed which historically irritates me because I tend to have trouble sleeping when there is unresolved tension likely due to stress hormones and he typically quickly falls asleep.  This time was different. I pulled my blankets way up over my head as if it have them hold me, and repeated to myself over and over again "lower your expectations" in the hopes that I could keep my stress hormones at bay and fall asleep. 

After several minutes....many more than I would have normally waited, my husband rolled over and embraced me with a big hug.  He expressed sorrow that I was upset, and said he was sorry for any insensitivity he had towards me....even complimenting me for usually being so on the ball with responding to questions or comments he had for me throughout the day via text message.  In that moment, I realized, that it was wrong of me to repeat those words "lower your expectations" because my husband did exactly what I'd always dreamed he would do, but I'd never been patient enough to give him the space to have a response.    In twenty years of marriage, how many dozens of times would he have lovingly cared for my emotional needs if I had just waited, and repeated to myself over and over again "trust your husband loves you".  To truly believe this that he loves me even if he didn't say sorry last night.  To trust that we're on the same team....that even when we've both had a long day, or done something insensitive to the other person, that I can trust that he loves me.  This will be my new thought when we have another disagreement.  Instead of aiming not to disagree, perhaps the aim should be to trust that he loves me even when we disagree.