Oh Santa…I Wanted You to be Real

Yesterday we took the kids to our ward Christmas party. In one room they were serving dinner and in the room down the hall you could line up to go visit Santa. My kids ages 9, 6, 3, and 1 ran as fast as they could down the hall, waited impatiently in line and then practically jumped on Santa. My 3 year old was so enthusiastically hugging Santa that she pulled just a little too tight on his beard. It didn’t come off (thank goodness) but he did have to adjust…and apparantly it didn’t go without my 9 year old’s notice.

She walked out of the room and you could tell she was upset. I was a little bit confused at her sudden change of demeanor and so I asked her what was wrong. She mumbled under her breath “Santa’s not real” and then she started walking more quickly down the hall towards our dinner.

Now I know it wasn’t just the beard that tipped her off…this has been coming for a long time. Maybe even a few years. A few years of questions like “hey, this toy says it was made in China not the North Pole” and a few brave moments when she actually asked me if Santa was real. I always responded with “what do you think?”…I guess a part of me was unsure about telling her. I didn’t want the magic to end. I don’t think she did either, that’s why she “chose to keep on believing.” It was easier than acknowledging the truth.

That night when we went home and talked about it…my heart felt broken. Her tears were so real, so disappointed, so hurt. I felt hurt too.  Hurt because I had hurt her…in a way because I had perpetuated a lie, because I had purposefully deceived her for as long as I could. I don’t know if that was right…it was fun…but was it right?

…I still don’t know.

But even in her hurting, and my hurting, there was something miraculous taking place. Her ability to put two and two together, to reason inside her own head and figure out a puzzle that had been placed before her, her entire life. She questioned at first…but then ultimately she knew, even without me confirming it. Her own logic figured it out. She realized that her parents could lie to her and she trusted herself more than she trusted me. That’s a big deal…an important deal.

Maybe it’s not the same thing, but my own heart ached because of all the things people told me…things I was supposed to believe, things I kept believing long after it made no sense to do so. I was in awe of Audrey’s ability to trust herself, even though it hurt so much. I guess in some ways I look at my experience of leaving the LDS church the same way as Audrey is now viewing Santa. For most of my life I could dismiss that beard that had to be adjusted, I could find a way to not worry about the fact that Reindeer can’t fly, or that I never once in my childhood lived in a home with a chimney. I was 32 years old before I could trust my own heart to point out everything that didn’t line up for me in the LDS church. I was 32 years old before I realized that leaders aren’t perfect, and even if they don’t know they are doing it…leaders too can lie.

As I was sitting at dinner yesterday surrounded by old friends, one of them made a light hearted joke about polygamy. In my believing days perhaps I would have laughed. Just another misaligned beard that needed to be adjusted…no big deal! But this time I looked at them, and my heart started up with that familiar ache…and it just made no sense. Polygamy wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t what they thought it was…not even close, it wasn’t what my church leaders taught me it was, or what I was supposed to believe it was. And I remember vividly that day a little less than 1 year ago, when I was finally brave enough, like my daughter, to murmur under my breath “polygamy was wrong…Joseph Smith was wrong.” I felt so guilty when I said it. So unsure. And yet so sure all in the same moment. Like I wanted confirmation…but really I didn’t need it.

I hear active members of the church talk about how those of us who are doubting need to “choose to believe.” For a long time I tried…and now, just like I can no longer choose to believe in Santa, I no longer view believing in the church as a choice either. Maybe that sounds sad…maybe it is…but maybe it’s not? Maybe I needed to be reminded that my own heart knows more than I think it does. Maybe I needed to be reminded that I have truth within my own soul, a light within my own body, and perhaps all I need to know resides deep within my own heart. Maybe that’s better than looking at others and asking them to guide my way. Maybe it’s better to know I can find my own answers than it is to always expect them to be given to me. Maybe I needed to show myself that no matter what those around me say…I would choose to listen to me. We all know what we know…but I needed to find my courage to acknowledge it. And when I finally did…well, that was a big deal. A really big deal.

5 Minute Friday: Dwell

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The word for this week is: DWELL

GO:

Dwell means something deeper than what we can see on the surface. Something deeper than we might expect, or hope for…dwell is what you get when you pause and sit in the now and absorb all that comes from that experience. I like to dwell on the meaning of life. On the purpose of all the mundane. I have a hope that it all means something. I once knew…or at least thought I know that it did…now I just hope. Dwelling on what I know, what I sense to be true…it takes me to a deep place within my heart, a place where life is big, and purpose is real. A place where we are so much more than we appear on the outside, so much grander and deeper. Everything matters. Everything has a purpose, everything means something. Some days I feel as if perhaps nothing means anything, but when I find myself in a place of honest dwelling I don’t believe that that is true. How could it be? How could we mean nothing, when so much has to work perfectly in order for us to even be alive. How could that be nothing? My heart says, that surely it has to be something. It is weird traveling from a place of knowing to a place of unknowing…don’t most people travel in the opposite direction? Why do I travel in the opposite direction of the crowd? Why is it in this direction that I find knowing in unknowing, and peace as I sit and dwell.

STOP. 

What Makes You Happy?

I was on the phone one day with my therapist, when she stopped and asked me this question.

What makes you happy?

I was stunned into silence. My mind started racing around in a circle knowing that I should have an answer for that simple question, and yet nothing. My mind would circle around and come to rest in a giant empty blank void. And then I would try it again…and then again…and again…I started to panic. I muttered something like “I don’t know…” but I’ve never been so surprised in my life. It wasn’t like the “I don’t know” you say, when deep down you really do, but you’re not sure the person listening will like your answer. It was the deepest darkest kind of “I don’t know” I’ve ever muttered in my life. I really didn’t. I was drawing a blank like no blank I have ever drawn before.

Since that time, almost a year ago, I have spend hours trying to think of what makes me happy. I can think of lots of things that don’t make me happy…like jet skiing and sewing, or people who are jerks, or driving in a snow storm. But if I could do one thing right now in this moment that would make me happy, what would it be? My therapist told me I need to choose that thing, as often as I can.

After just a few days of thinking about this, I realized that I have a deeply rooted aversion to happiness. Even though the LDS church (which I grew up in, but am recently no longer a believing member) taught scriptures like 2 Nephi 2:25 which says “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” and Alma 41:10 “wickedness never was happiness” which somehow implies that if you are righteous you will be happy…I somehow got it in my head that happiness was selfish.

That’s it…that’s what I was subconsciously taught…and I literally had no idea until I started trying to do things that would make me happy, and found myself instantly spiraling down into the mirky dark world of guilt.

So the question to ponder (and I have pondered it for a long time…) is this: If you were to always choose what makes you happy, would you end up living a selfish life? Would you always choose yourself over others? Would you never get anything done?

I have thought and thought and thought, and been very uncomfortable with trying to answer these types of questions. Sometimes the responsibilities of  being a parent are hard and they don’t make me happy…so if what would make me happy would be to just leave the kids home with dad and go running off with my friends, going to movies, and eating junk food (because lets face it…sometimes salad does not make me happy) and driving way to fast on the freeway because it sounded fun, and staying up all night and spending all my money on cute clothes and, and, and….well….that would be selfish. It’s obvious. Human’s are selfish right…and happiness is selfish.

BUT.

What if I did do those things?

What if I had an amazingly happy weekend. What then? I have a strange suspicion that I wouldn’t be very happy when I got home. Not when I came home and my stomach hurt from all the bad food, and I had gotten a ticket on the freeway (or worse been in an accident) or when I went to go buy groceries on Monday morning only to find out that my credit card had been maxed out and there was nothing left. All weekend long, I have a strange suspicion that I had been lying to myself. I wasn’t choosing happiness. Maybe I was running from my life, or having a moment of insanity…but it wasn’t really happy. But maybe I would need to make those choices to figure that out…sometimes thats what it takes to find out what we are really looking for.

If I chose what really made me happy. I would know that sometimes being a parent is hard, and I am definitely the kind of person that needs a break now and again. Maybe I would plan a fun weekend getaway with my friends, go to a motor park where I could drive 120 mph in my car under the supervision of a driving teacher who wouldn’t let me die, and I’d save up my money so I could go on a wild shopping spree but with no regrets. I’d come home feeling good about myself, refreshed, free…not more trapped than I was before I’d left. That would be happy. But the kicker here…I saw it on a meme on Facebook just this morning…“It’s not selfish to take care of your own needs.” 

I think I have been stuck in a world where I was taught that choosing myself was wrong. Choosing to say no to someone can be problematic in a culture where the women are expected to always say yes.

I remember a pretty personal conversation with my husband about making the decision to finally be done having any more kids. I had just had kid #4 and I was on the brink of one of my biggest emotional melt downs of my life. I was more overwhelmed than I can possibly explain, and yet when he asked me if we could officially (surgically) consider our family complete. I panicked. The LDS church promotes large families, and even though it doesn’t “officially” teach it’s opposition to birth control it does “unofficially” teach it. And in the church handbook it specifically forbids what my husband was talking about.

I panicked. I had nightmares of me standing in the presence of God and being judged…”You were supposed to have 1 more child…but that child was never able to come to earth…why didn’t you have enough faith?” I was going to let God down.  And then I would have a different nightmare, where I had another baby and I could not emotionally take care of it, my depression was so severe and I was so overwhelmed and I knew having another child would send me to the loony bin. I was terrified. I couldn’t win. Either way I chose. One way God would be mad that I didn’t have enough kids, the other way God would be mad that I had had too many and I wasn’t able to care for them. I went on like this for months.

Until one night, when I was driving in the car, I don’t know where I was or what I was doing, but I remember it hitting me like a TON of bricks. I heard a voice that said “Of course I care about little children…but I am not going to destroy the children I already have to get them here…” I burst into tears, and I realized that I was important, my happiness was important, my life. I wasn’t just needed to be a womb (I will definitely get into this topic later…) but me, just me, I was important too. And what was bigger yet, was my realization that I had the right to choose what was most important to me, and what would make me the most happy, even if the official church handbook told me otherwise. My personal revelation, trumps church revelation every time.

EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I know that’s a bold statement to make for a believing member…but it was a huge awakening for me, to help me see, that maybe what I had been taught for 32 years of my life wasn’t all right. I was willing to throw my life in a toilet for God, because I couldn’t disobey what his handbook said. Because I didn’t want to get in trouble. And yet, in this instance, at least this much I know for sure…God didn’t want to destroy me…he wanted me to be happy…

Maybe, just maybe, choosing happiness isn’t as selfish as I originally thought. Maybe happiness is what brings us back to life.

So…happiness…what would you do right now?

What is Energy?

I read in a book somewhere that our bodies are simply made out of energy. I think it is some weird quantum science fact or something, that we look like a solid mass but really we are like 98% energy. In fact, I think it said that everything is…even things like walls. They look solid, they feel solid…but really, the majority of it is empty energetic space.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea. The idea that I am made up of mostly energy. I have been really sick. I have been having pretty severe abdominal pain and so I have been getting a lot of tests done to try to figure out why. I’ve had blood work, a CT scan, a trip to the Er, more blood work, an ultrasound, and finally a colonoscopy and an endoscopy…all with the results coming back as NORMAL. Now, I’m not one to complain about normal, I mean normal is a pretty good diagnosis, but there’s no denying the fact that I’m sick. The pain in my gut, well, it just isn’t normal. Normal healthy people don’t have to lie down in the fetal position and cry, and that happens to happen to me a lot. But the physical me…the small part of me that is actually mass…is fine. At least as far as any of the doctors can tell. I suppose I could spend a million dollars to have them do every test imaginable, and maybe they would find something physically wrong…but I doubt it. Every time I’ve ever had a test done, I knew what the result would be. A part of me just knew…maybe the energetic part?

And so I wonder. I wonder about energy, and what it is. What is does. How it works. Could I be energetically sick? Perhaps my physical symptoms stemming from something wrong with my energetic body? Maybe it sounds crazy…maybe it is. But why do my symptoms get worse when I feel anxious? Why do they get worse when I’m upset? Why can I do meditation, or yoga…and sometimes it feels better?

So my question…how do you release negative energy? How do you let the good stuff in? How do you stop hiding who you are? How do you allow yourself to have space to feel your emotions and then be willing to let them flow through the walls that you call you. Seems strange to hold onto things that could just flow right through…and yet…seems odd also, that I have no idea how to let it go.