Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What do you want for me?

I'm a very lucky person. I have many, many people in my life who love me and want me to be happy. I just wish they could separate out those things that truly make me happy from those things that will make them happy. An incident that occurred near the end of Grandma's life illustrates this very well.
The day we had hospice come in and give Grandpa the low-down on what would be taking place over the last remaining weeks of Grandma's life was a difficult one for all involved. More than anyone, for Grandpa. He didn't want to let go of his beloved wife, the rock of his world, the only person who could have put up with him for 60 years and not killed him. Seriously. To watch him process everything that was being thrown at him was heart-wrenching. He would have given anything, including his personal fortune, to extend Grandma's life.
After spending some time with the hospice nurse, Grandpa went into the bedroom, where I was sitting at Grandma's bedside. She asked him if all of his questions had been answered. He gave a typical smart-aleck response. She got a bit frustrated, and asked him what he wanted for her. His reply? "I want you to get better and stay here with me." She said, "No, that's what you want for you. What do you want for me?" He hung his head, and for the only time in his life that I've witnessed, spoke from the heart. "I want you to be out of pain." At that, they both teared up, and I left the room so as to give them the space to process their raw, heart-felt grief.
I know that my parents and other loved ones want me to stay a true believer in the church and in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I believe that's what they want for themselves. It makes them feel better, and continues the illusion that all is right with their world. But, if they were to look into my heart and answer the question as Grandpa did, I believe they would want me to be out of pain. And if I continue to pretend to be what they all want me to be, I will be in pain. Mental, emotional, spiritual pain. Dramatic, yes. But still true. I've given 50 years of my life to the image, and it has brought me pain and anxiety. And depression. It's time for me to free my heart and my spirit from other's expectations and beliefs, and discover what I believe. And though I'm just over a year into it, I already feel freer and lighter. Jesus said that we should bring our burdens to him and he will make them lighter. I don't know why, but that never worked for me. I just felt weighted down and burdened by expectation. I've let it all go, and I'm no longer in pain. Except for the pain of knowing that my loved ones, particularly my parents, will be burdened with my unbelief. And if I knew how to relieve their burdens as well, I'd do it. But I don't. Dread Pirate Roberts said that life is pain. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. Loving others also brings pain. Would we choose not to love?
Gracie said recently, "When Grandma died, it put her out of her misery. And put us into ours." Unfortunately, embracing my unbelief puts me out of my misery, and puts my parents into theirs. Maybe there will be a life after this one, and everybody will get what they need and desire, and we'll all be out of pain and happy. I do still feel hope that that's true, even if I'm not sure I believe it. Hope will have to be enough for now. And the lesson for me is to let those I love be who they are, free of my expectations for them, free to follow the voices in their own hearts, or heads. Whatever the case may be. Just don't self-medicate with religion! Freely embrace it if it speaks your language, don't if it doesn't. And let me be happy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

And so it begins. . .

I've been contemplating blogging all day, and I'm taking this way too seriously for my own good, so I'm just going to jump in! The main reason I want to blog about my experiences and feelings of the past year is to help myself gain some clarity. So this is mainly for me. But, I may, on occasion, send this to various relatives who might be interested in what I think, and maybe they will gain some clarity as well! High hopes, pie in the sky hopes......
I love analogies and metaphores. They help paint a picture that I can't quite formulate with words. And my favorite analogy this year has centered on tomatoes. I hate tomatoes. I have always hated tomatoes. The smell nauseates me, the taste haunts my nightmares, I hate the gooshy squishy feeling I get between my fingers when I have to cut them to fit into bottles. (When I can't get out of canning, that is.) One of my earliest memories is of sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of stewed tomatoes over home-made white bread in front of me, and my mom hovering over me until I ate that odious offering. I remember the disgust I felt, and the resentment, and the hopelessness that I'd never be able to choke it down and would therefore spend the rest of my days at that table in tears while my brothers ran off to play without me. And I didn't just hate the tomatoes; I hated my mom for making me eat them. I hated her for not understanding the depth of my dislike. I hated her for not seeing me for the tomato-hater I was, and for expecting me to just buck up baby because that's what we eat around here and you will damn well eat it and like it!! Maybe not in those words, but that was the idea. All these years later, and I can almost taste the bitterness in my mouth! I'm salivating as I write!
As an adult, there have been various occasions when I've been ribbed for not liking tomatoes. My brother-in-law, who I don't like anyway, told me that as an adult I need to learn to like them. My own daughter, when told that I didn't want tomatoes on my half of a shared salad, said, "You're an adult! Get over it!" I don't want to get over it! I don't like tomatoes! I don't like them here or there, I don't like them anywhere! And I don't expect that to change! Ever!
And that's how I feel about church. Right down to the resentment I feel at the expectation that as an adult I should just get over it. I think maybe I was born without the devotion gene. I don't like the rituals, and the forced reverence, and the pretense that I understand the hidden meanings behind what we do. I don't like being judged, and I don't like the assumed authority of the men on the stand watching that we all sustain with our right hands and take the sacrament with our right hands and don't wear flip-flops or more than one modest pair of earrings or a denim skirt or a colored shirt. I don't like the idea that I've given away my power to choose because of some covenants I made under duress (yes, sitting in a special room wearing strange clothing accompanied by family members and friends who are all watching me as I attempt to follow instructions seemingly in code that will allow me into the celestial kingdom constitutes duress). I was born with taste buds that dislike tomatoes, and my innermost self responds the same way to religion. Since leaving my parent's house, I haven't eaten tomatoes unless they were blended, mixed with herbs and spices, spread on dough, and covered with pepperoni and cheese. Or with my french fries as ketchup. Or in a few other culinary delights. So why have I spent the last 30 years forcing myself to partake of religion on a daily/weekly/monthy basis? Isn't it time for me to decide how to feed my soul?