Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rewiring the Brain.

Sometimes I try to pretend that I was never religious. I'm tired of religion. I'm tired when I think of all the decisions that I made about my education and my life because I was worried they would take me away from my true calling as a wife and mother. I'm tired of trying to talk in circles about how to change said religions so they make more sense and are more egalitarian.

I just get tired. Or maybe, I'm just still so hurt. I think I avoid religion lately because it's still so emotionally taxing on me. Having made a break from the Mormon faith just over two years ago hasn't dissipated all the hard wiring my brain has had to try and undo after 30 years of thinking one way. And it's hard fighting with yourself all the time. It's hard second guessing your well thought out decisions. It's hard having friends and family look at you like you are a problem to be fixed. It gets hard. And tiring.

I recently read this article that really moved me. I understood her story. I lived her story. I think you could read it too and see what a lot of women in the LDS church deal with--though it may seem silly that it's engrained in us so fully, but it really is.

She tells her story, and then she optimistically paints a solution to how you can balance your faith, family, and career if certain changes were made. I like the story she paints. She paints it in shades of warm yellow and orange that make me start to feel something. But, my blueness regarding the situation comes back after only a few moments. Sometimes the problem seems so big. And, why should I even try and change what I perceive as a problem, when so many women are ok with it? That's the big question. Do I just get out and then leave the church and it's consenting women to their own demise? Many would say yes. Many would get upset with me even calling it a "demise". But all I know is that if I didn't have a friend who was brave enough to voice her concerns and leave the church and then tell me about it, knowing, or at least hoping, that I would love her anyway--if I didn't have her to see that it WAS possible to be actually happy and religion free--then I'd still be in that same church. I would be meeting my own demise. My soul and spirit and whatever you want to call it were dying in that church and I didn't even realize it.

You can read the full story about this woman here.

Also, you can read this little excerpt below.

Women’s invisibility is at the root of all their problems, and this invisibility comes from women’s profound lack of representation in the major decision making councils of the world and their lack of influence and power. To have their voices heard and better the lives of all women, men, and children, they must find their way into governments, academia, international affairs, and business administration. In that way, those making the decisions will have women’s needs and interests (and by extension, those of the family) in mind. However, this presents a major dilemma for those who are Latter-day Saints and who believe that motherhood and family cohesion are preeminent.

It is broadly accepted that Mormons traditionally believe in stay-at-home moms. For many years the counsel to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the church leaders has been for mom to stay in the home while the children are still being raised. They were strongly counseled against taking any kind of career when it wasn’t necessary. Many Latter-day Saint boys are raised to look for a girl to marry who is committed to staying home with her kids, and girls are raised with marriage and homemaking as their ultimate ambition. How is a Latter-day Saint to reconcile the need for women to take positions of political influence, when those positions require work outside of the home and a lifelong investment in a career in order to reach any type of authoritative level of influence? Considering that a woman cannot be simultaneously in her home with her children and in the workplace making a change in the world, and boards of directors and politicians cannot and will not hire someone without experience, major societal changes are in order to reconcile this dilemma. These changes must take place in the workplace, in societal values, and in societal expectations, particularly for men.

I feel like it's Indecision 2011 for me. I'm almost 34. I feel like I need to decide if I want to go out and grab that husband and have that baby, or if I want to do what I feel so passionate about in my heart. Is there really a way to do both? I don't really believe that there is. I think having children changes the playing ground so completely that your life is never the same. That you focus so fully on them you let other things fall by the wayside. That's a good thing. I want mothers in this world that would be involved in mothering. And I know myself well enough to know that if I had a child, I would give so much of myself, my time, my talents (and that I would WANT to give those things to that little baby) that all of my other dreams would still sort of be realized, just not as fully. Or my dreams would change. Which isn't a bad thing at all. But it seems bad now. It seems lesser. It seems like I won't reach my full potential. It seems like I'm talking in circles, doesn't it? Meh. 


Jenny said...

I think it can be okay for everyone to be happy in a different way. I feel fine about the fact that you're happy without religion, husband, and children and that you love being a part of the American workforce. I would hope that you would be fine with the fact that I am happy with religion, husband, children, and not being part of the workforce.
And I'm sorry you feel looked at like a problem to be fixed. I don't think that's being very fair to you. I think you're wonderful and I think you've thought deeply about what you want and where you're going.
And to add my two cents to your upcoming decisions, I think marriage and kids are a great decision (once you find that elusive man of your dreams, right?). You'll love it. And you can still realize your dreams. You're so talented that I'm sure you'll never lose your drive to create.
Good luck with your year of indecision. I wish upon you the ability to make the decisions that bring solutions you love.

Stella said...

Thank you for your lovely comment Jenny.

I am very fine with every person choosing their own path. Most of my best friends are active LDS mothers and I see the good that they do, the happiness and contentment they have and I would never wish their lives to be different or see their lives lacking in any way. But I find that they have a harder time viewing me in such a regard. It's getting better, but still, I know they pray for me to return to their truth, I hear bits and pieces in conversation about the LDS church being the ONLY way to happiness--that I can't be experiencing true joy and etc. I find that such a limited view of the world. I find the idea that the LDS church as the only way to God and Christ as the only way to salvation as an ostracism of more than 2/3rds (or more?) of our world and I don't think telling everyone they'll just have to be Christians in the next life is any sort of comfort, especially if we are to remain as we are now. I'm long winded, but I do wish that people in general could realize what is true for them is not true for others and that they could use that as a path to an open mind instead of a means to judge others.

Craig said...

It's just so frustrating. The misogyny (and heteronormativity) of Mormonism is so fundamentally ingrained into the religion that I too often wonder whether it's even worth it to try to change it. I'm not sure it's possible to get rid of the patriarchy within Mormonism without destroying Mormonism itself - which to me isn't really a bad thing.

Certainly we need to work to mould a society that truly equally values women and their contributions, talents, and rights to those of men, but I think that the church will only reach that point long after the rest of society has, and only because, like Blacks and the priesthood, it will become culturally untenable to persist in its homophobic and misogynistic patriarchy. I find it impossible to believe that the church will change in any other way.

It IS tiring. Having been a Mormon for most of my life is something that most days I try to not think about and some days I succeed. It is painful, and the self-doubt you still live with even after having left the church never really leaves because of how destructive Mormonism is to self-esteem and independent thought. At least that's my experience. For all the security and truth I've found in secular, atheistic naturalism; the consequences of having been raised Mormon never really go away. And that more than anything else makes me hate religion, and makes me think that the only way to defeat its harmful effects is to create a society that doesn't tolerate it.

Hey, It's Ansley said...

Oh do we have some things to talk about when you are in Portland! Even though we have officially never met, our lives and thoughts seem to run in parallel.

Stella said...

Thank you for being someone who is able to voice a lot of my own feelings and to understand them. As humans we sometimes just seek to be understood. You and I both know that is rare, so thank you for that.

Ansley--Saturday. It is on.