Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My Self

A Pole, a Jew, and Mormon walked into a bar. It’s not a joke. It was girl’s night out.

I spent last evening with 2 very dear friends, whom I met as Shakespeare moms when our kids participated in Logan Youth Shakespeare. We have bonded over parenting woes, marital issues, self-esteem challenges, and the changes that come with a journey through mortality.

Last night, as we visited and commiserated, one theme emerged from the detritus of our conversation.

In order to be the best mom, the best wife, the best person, we need to be our best self.

And how do we accomplish that?

We spent over three hours hashing out the concept of loving oneself, throwing around ideas like setting intentions, expressing gratitude, and listing, daily, three things to like about oneself. That last one is every bit as hard as it seems.

Why? Why is it so hard to see the good in ourselves? Why do we struggle to like who we see in the mirror? Where did this internal, infernal, negative self-dialogue originate?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but a likely culprit is the societal expectation that to avoid conceit, we must practice humility. I just think we’ve Inigo Montoya’d humility….. it doesn’t mean what we think it means.

The hard truth is that if I had a friend who talked to me the way I sometimes talk to myself, I would detach from that friend. Sayanara, frenemy.

And if I treated my children the way I occasionally treat myself, the authorities would be notified. With good reason.

And here’s another hard truth: every relationship we have, every single one, will eventually end. Every person who loves us will eventually leave us. Sometimes it is through choice, as friendships naturally fade and affection dies. Or geography intervenes. Or offense occurs and separation becomes necessary.

Sometimes it is through death, as these mortal bodies do tend to wear out and quit on us. Through no fault of our own, in the end, it all ends. We all die, every last one of us. Which is the ultimate separation. No matter what you believe about life after death, the death of a loved one will mean at least a temporary separation, and it hurts. But it is inevitable. We all die.

There is, however, one relationship that endures to the end. One exception to the rule that all relationships must end. One person who will be with us ‘til the bitter end. One person who will stay beside us through thick and thin, rain or shine, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.

I am, of course, speaking of the self.

I grew up with the notion that to be self-centered was wicked and sinful. I was taught, by my religious community, that to truly become divine, I must deny the self, and focus my efforts on others.

I do see beauty in this concept of self-denial and unselfish service, but I also believe that the concept of being self-centered has been given a bad rap. An undeserved one.

How can we be anything but self-centered? Who are we if not our ‘self’? If we have no center, we have no soul, and no well from which to draw when serving others.

To be self-centered is to be grounded. It allows us to serve from a place of love, stability, security. If our goal is to serve and love others, wouldn’t it be prudent to begin with ourselves? To be ‘self’ centered?

Years ago, when I first started to practice yoga, I took my mat into my quiet front room where I could be undisturbed. As I finished and settled into prayer pose, I looked up at the wall in front of me and took in the picture of Jesus hanging there, and the plaque next to it. “Be still and know that I AM”. The words struck me as never before.

Be still, and know that I am.

I am.

I exist, I am real, I am here.

I am, and that is all that I know. All that I have in this life that is a sure thing, all that I can know, is that I AM.
All my preconceived notions about the meaning of life faded away, and I knew, in that moment, that what really mattered, what really matters, is that I AM.

Religion tells us that the purpose of life is to focus on others. Pop culture tells us that to be fulfilled we should focus on ourselves.

I think we need to land somewhere in the middle, and begin by nurturing the most important relationship any of us will ever have. Maybe by strengthening our ‘self’, we will be able to offer love, comfort, and safety to others, and live a fulfilling life, with purpose and intention.

How to best strengthen that ‘self’? That’s a discussion for another day.

In the meantime, go look in the mirror and tell your self that she’s (or he’s) amazing!

(I know, it feels weird, hippy-dippy and new-agey, strange on every level! Do it anyway! Your self will thank you!)

Monday, March 20, 2017


We celebrated our 28th anniversary this week.

We got married on St. Patrick’s Day, 1989. The holiday itself wasn’t on our radar at the time. As Mormons, St. Patrick doesn’t have much of a place in our traditions. We don’t worship saints, and we don’t drink beer, green or otherwise.

However, the day did prove to be fortuitous. We got lucky. (Not like that!) (Okay, yes, like that…. but this is not that kind of a blog...)

We each have come to the conclusion that we are lucky to have the other. There can be no better conclusion for spouses, in my opinion.

A couple of days before our anniversary, our son asked if we planned to celebrate. It was a fair question, considering the epic battle he had witnessed the day before. We’ve had our share of arguments, like any married couple, but that one felt bigger, and the atmosphere in our home reflected it.

We responded to our son that of course we were going to celebrate! 28 years of marriage deserves to be recognized, and celebrated. Even if the celebrants are locked in battle over the current state of affairs. Marriage, we told our son, is like that. Ups and downs have figured prominently in our journey. Fortunately, for us, more ups than downs.

As related in a previous post, there happened to be a pretty big elephant in our room. Church, and the attendance thereof.

Daron had admitted to me that he didn’t like attending alone. And since I dislike attending at all, we had reached an impasse. There seemed to be no way forward that would satisfy the both of us.

As we embarked on our anniversary celebration, with our previous conversation still hanging heavy in the air, the atmosphere was slightly tense. But, my husband, being a man (and yes, this seems to be a male trait), was able to set it aside in the interest of an evening away from the stresses of home and family. Basically, he was looking forward to gettin’ some.

We had chosen to spend the night at a local inn. Just being away for a night is cause for celebration. We really do enjoy one another’s company, more so when away from our own cluttered environment and needy children.

As the evening progressed, our conversation turned to the event 28 years ago that had changed both our lives. For good, I might add.

He asked what I remembered most about the day. My clearest recollection is feeling cherished by him as we proceeded through the ceremony in the temple. He was attentive and chivalrous, making me feel adored.

I asked what he remembered most. He responded, “Driving to dinner after the ceremony and watching you take off your girdle in the front seat of the car. No woman had ever removed a piece of clothing in my car before.”

Okay, then.

He then asked if I had any regrets. I gave his question the thoughtful consideration it deserved, and answered, honestly, “No, no regrets. None.”

(Except for that girdle. I regret that. Haven’t worn one since.)

What about him, I asked? Regrets?

No, he replied. Not one.

Really? I responded. None? You don’t regret marrying someone who started out Mormon, and ended up a happy agnostic atheist?

No, he said. I love the woman you have become as much as I loved the woman I married. More, even.

Wow. In that moment, it became even more clear to me how lucky I am to be married to him.

He does not tolerate the changes in me; he celebrates them. He celebrates me. He loves me, all the parts of me.

How can I, then, not rejoice in all the parts of him? He is religious, to the core. He has a strong testimony that the Mormon church is The Church of Jesus Christ, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He is not timid in his expression of his faith, and he does not hesitate to share what he believes he knows to be true when the opportunity presents itself.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change that about him either. It is part of what makes him who he is. His testimony centers him, and helps form the core of strength that defines him. Without his belief in the gospel, and Jesus, who would he be? Of course, there is no way to know, but I will happily accept his faith as an integral and essential part of his being, because I love that being with all my heart and soul.

My leaving the church didn’t destroy our marriage. I believe, in retrospect, it strengthened it. We each had to figure out who we were in relationship to the divine, without leaning on the other. Because in the end, a testimony is deeply personal, and the acquiring of one is accomplished through solitary introspection. It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, reliant upon the testimony of one’s mate.

Daron doesn’t like going to church alone, but he does it. When I stopped going, he was forced to figure out what mattered to him, and he had to come to the conclusion, on his own, that he would prefer to go alone than not go at all.

So is it sad that we don’t share a faith in God? A little, maybe.

But I find joy in our journey through and beyond my faith transition, because we have each arrived at a place of peace with regards to God’s existence.

Daron continues going to church, alone, because he believes in it.

I continue not going to church, at all, because I don’t believe in it.

And we continue to love and support one another on our chosen paths.

As he prepared to leave the house for church this afternoon, I looked at him in his suit and tie, and I felt lucky.

I am lucky to be married to a man who loves God, and me. There is room for us both. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


I can’t control my brain, my thoughts. They keep returning to ruminate over stupid conversations that happened, and those that didn’t. What I should have done, what I should have left undone.

Since I can’t control my thoughts, I have turned to my surroundings, thinking that maybe by bringing order to my environment, I can bring order to my mind.

Also, I am married to a hoarder-wanna-be. Just one of several glaring differences in our chosen lifestyles.

I have been attempting to unclutter our house, starting with the closets down the hall. I have managed to wrestle a bit of order out of the chaos, but it is introducing more chaos into my marriage.

Yesterday, as I started on the kitchen cupboards, my husband walked into the room and stared in horror at the box of castoffs I had collected. His reaction was anticipated, which is why I’ve been performing my cleaning covertly, while he is out of the house. Unfortunately for me, his schedule is rather unpredictable, and he is apt to return at inopportune moments and catch me in the act. As he did yesterday.

I will admit my approach wasn’t perhaps the best. No one reacts well to being called on their bad habits. And keeping anything and everything, in the event that it might be needed some day, is a bad habit. In my eyes, anyway. Not so much in his. But the way I’ve pointed it out cannot be interpreted by him as anything but adversarial.

So yesterday. He stormed across the room and took a look at what I had removed from a cupboard. A cupboard, I might add, that is inconveniently located, and doesn’t store anything of importance. In my humble opinion. He, however, must have felt that his very way of life was under attack, because he grabbed a couple of items I had set aside for donation, clutched them to his breast, and proclaimed them worthy to remain in our possession.

I reacted… overreacted… by bursting into tears and calling him a hoarder.

Bad move.

Our conversation quickly devolved into a heated argument about clutter versus order. Neither of us took the high road, unfortunately. All of this in front of the two kids who currently reside with us.

I’m not proud.

But still kinda mad.

I retreated to our bedroom, asking him to follow, hoping to continue our conversation away from tender ears prone to catastrophizing any and every argument into a sure sign of impending divorce.

Hubby headed out to the garage. I assumed he had no interest in conversing with a hysterical, screaming banshee wife, so I locked the bedroom door, as a show of maturity, climbed onto the bed, and bawled my eyes out.

When he came to the bedroom door, as I figured he would, and found it locked, he picked up the bobby pin kept on the table in the hall (intended for just such a purpose, though usually used to unlock the teenager’s door when she thinks she can keep us out), unlocked the door, and let himself in.

True to his nature, he was calm and controlled. Gah. Doesn’t actually help calm me down. Maybe that’s why he does it. He knows it serves to further rile me up and encourage histrionics. I’m pretty predictable that way.

I found myself attempting to explain to him what clutter does to my mind and spirit. How it further deepens the depression that has taken root this year and resists all attempts to remove it. How much I crave an orderly environment, and how much I enjoy removing what seems to be useless crap.

I guess my raging tears didn’t do much to further communication. He didn’t seem to be moved. Though he did remain calm.

He said he was offended at my assumption that if I left, or died, our house would be profiled on an episode of Hoarders inside of a week. He said it reminded him of another assumption I had made, earlier in our married life, that hadn’t proved true.

Many years ago, while raising our young children, we had been a pretty typical Mormon family. I was the one mostly invested in our eternal salvation, or so it seemed, and I felt like I was single-handedly dragging my family to the celestial kingdom. Whenever I was sick, or had to work, my husband did not fight the good fight and take our children to church, prompting me to assert that if I were to die, I was sure my children would never again darken the doorway of a chapel.

He has thrown this particular assumption in my face from time to time in the ensuing years, because as fate would have it, I have been the one who has refused to darken the doorway of a chapel. For reasons too many to enumerate here, I am done with church, and my children have followed suit. My husband, the man I claimed would not make the effort to ensure their continued involvement in the activity most likely to lead them to salvation, is the only one who continues to attend faithfully.

He is a true-blue believer, one who has been “gifted to know”.

I am a die-hard unbeliever, one who has been gifted with skepticism. And I can no longer support an institution that purports to be the “one true church” while ignoring the skeletons in its closet, and continues to treat those who don’t fit the box as pariahs, unfit for the kingdom of god. (My story, my perspective, get over it.)

I asked him, yesterday, in the heat of battle, why he hadn’t bothered to take our kids to church when they were young if I couldn’t go, and he responded, “Because I hate going to church alone.”

And there it was.

The words hung heavy in the air, giving meaning to the phrase “pregnant pause”.

The elephant in the room had been identified.

He hates going to church alone. And I hate going to church. Period. Full stop.

We are at an impasse.

After all these years of battling our religious divide, it comes down to this.

If I go to church with him so he doesn’t have to go alone, I am unhappy.

If I don’t go to church with him and he goes alone, he is unhappy.

There are no winners here. No solution or compromise that suits us both.

I have no idea how to fix this. It won’t be as easy as lugging a carload of junk to the dump and then explaining why he can’t find his “good can with a lid that fits”.

I wonder if I can donate Jesus to “Somebody’s Attic”?

Nah. My husband would just go buy him back.

Sigh. It is what it bloody is.