Endure with me as we take a break from looking at Anxiety Disorders and Mormonism (a recap on the panels to come later this week!) in order to talk about current life. I have just spent probably over an hour writing in my journal, and I feel like there are some things that I need to get out into the real world as well.
Ups and Downs
Most of the time we see only a portion or tip of other peoples’ lives. We think that they have wonderful lives or that everything is going so great because, most of the time, we see only the filtered version, the good news, the happy times. This is nothing new in our society, and yet we still get fooled.
And at least personally, I think it makes me feel like the bad or low points are somehow far worse than they “actually” are, at least when they happen in my own life. That, or I compare other people’s “realizations” and views as being somehow important or crucial to my own life even though they really aren’t—they are just that person’s experience or view point, and that person is not me.
I think being a part of a culture like Mormonism exacerbates this idea as well. I’ll get there in a minute though, but first a bit of backstory.
The last week or so has been pretty brutal for me personally. Yes, we had an amazing, sold out conference. But we still maybe broke even but probably lost a little bit of money on the conference because of reasons, taxes, and expenses. And it is fine, we are okay and it was worth it, but it’s still a bit disheartening and highlighted some faults we had in planning and budgeting and such. But for a first attempt, it wasn’t so terrible.
So there’s that. And then there’s the rejection. OCD Con is coming up in July, and I submitted two talks. They emailed me offering me a place on a panel on scrupulosity. I was pumped. I said of course and even publicized it on Instagram. And then they wrote back, rescinding the offer. So that was kind of rude and lame, but then they also rejected both of my talk proposals. And I know, a lot of people apply, and yadda yadda, but it still stings a bit.
I’ve also been waiting to hear back about two books I’ve submitted to publishers and have gotten rejected by more than one publisher for both of those (and no acceptances). So things are basically sad and demoralizing.
Then one of my children has been having severe mental health struggles, says he hates me, and has been aggressive and violent. And while I have my own mental illness and “know” that mental illnesses are separate from the individual and cause a person to act in a way that they can’t really understand or control, it still hurts and somehow I haven’t properly accepted it. My husband, bless him, understands and can separate the mental illness from the person much better than I can. To me, it just feels like a stab in the back, an out of control problem that needs immediate attention but that is simultaneously so difficult to get care for. It’s like drowning in quick sand and hoping that the branch you grab on to will hold you, but all the while you know that it won’t or maybe there’s a different branch, a stronger branch, somewhere else but you don’t have the time or ability to get to it.
I feel tired and rejected and defeated over all, I guess. And I feel like a bad mom and a failed business woman and author, and yes, I know that I’ve had a book published and organized a successful conference and have helped people. I know that, and I’m grateful for it all. But at the same time, I am not independently financially viable or successful in any of my ventures and somehow am more depressed and feel like I keep trying to take one step forward only to get pushed twelve steps back.
Maybe I’m whining, and I apologize for that. But it’s hard. And I promised I’d bring it back to Church stuff, so let’s get into that.
Mormonism and Motherhood
Mormon culture is something that is so pervasive and powerful. And I grew up in that culture, going to Church and being a good Mormon. My parents are converts to the Church, though, and I’ll get to that more in a second. But anyway, I feel like growing up and going to YW and BYU and all of that, I was taught that certain ways of “being” would bring happiness. I was taught that being a mother would be my thing, you know? That it was going to be the best and make my life worthwhile. I was banking on that to some extent. Motherhood was going to bring me fulfillment and complete me.
And motherhood does bring joy and fulfillment for many Mormon women. It really does. It does for many women, Mormon or not. But imagine my surprise when it didn’t do that for me. I see other Mormon women. I read their Instagram or Facebook posts. I hear their comments in Relief Society or in Church talks, and I feel like a bad person when they say that taking care of their family brings them so much joy or that they know they need to set aside their hobbies or dreams or careers until their kids are gone because family is what is truly important and meaningful. And then I feel bad that I feel bad when I hear or see those sentiments, like I hate family or something. But it’s just that being a mom doesn’t bring me much joy or fulfillment, and I feel like I’m failing at being a mom and a woman and a Mormon for thinking or saying that, even if it’s true.
And it’s not like I don’t love my kids. I love my kids. But I’m not a warm, cuddly, loving, empathetic mother or person in general. I have a hard time being a mom. It’s not my thing, and I don’t know if it will ever be my thing.
And the thing is, that’s fine in “normal society”! If I was surrounded and hanging out with non-Mormons mostly, I think I wouldn’t feel bad about feeling this way. But I’m still stuck in the Mormon culture, you know? And Mormon culture loves to say that “normal society” is bad or evil or lesser than Mormon culture. And that doesn’t help either.
Where did I come from?
But I was talking to my husband about this, and he reminded me of my heritage, how I come from a line of really strong women and my parents are converts and, really, Mormon culture is new in our family history. I wish I knew more about these women who came before me. My own mom is well educated, intelligent, and was ambitious. She taught nursing and wrote at least one book. She gave that up eventually, to take care of us, but she worked at my dad’s company once I was in school. I know a few of the women in my family history farther back were pretty amazing, too, starting or running companies back in the early 1900s… and I feel like I have a responsibility to that heritage too, and not just to fit into current “Mormon culture.”
My sisters and I for some reason haven’t been able to sit on our hands and be stay at home moms without careers or ambitions. My mom sometimes has said that she doesn’t know why we are like this, why we can’t just enjoy being moms, but it’s not in our blood, I don’t think. We have this history—we have her example—and there is something in us that pushes us to do and be more.
I feel like I have been given personality traits and abilities, and I can’t just hide them away and keep myself under wraps until my kids are grown up and then spread my wings. I feel like it’s good for my children to see me struggling and succeeding and even failing, not just being a housekeeper.
I don’t know. It is hard, though, to be this type of person and to have this need and desire to do and be and strive while in a culture that says I should just be supporting and nurturing. It doesn’t feel natural, and that hurts me emotionally. Why should I feel like I have to change and bend and fit myself into a mold when I feel like I was made to be something else?
Is change possible in Mormon culture? Are people open enough to accept those of us who are different or are we always going to be outcasts or thought of as less than or not spiritual or good enough? I don’t know, but I’m weary. I feel like I’m having to go my own way and hope that it’s okay and not call too much attention to myself to avoid unnecessary backlash. It’s hard to be caught between worlds and cultures and not know where you fully belong, or knowing that you don’t fully belong or fit in anywhere.