Becoming a Lotus
Here is my anger, and my deepest disappointments, and what they taught me. This is the wisdom my twenties gave me, and my twenties are nearly over. Writing it down is therapeutic for me, and maybe even helpful for someone else who might recognize themselves in my words.
When I think of how I came to be married at 19, I see there the seed of my disaffection with what I believed. In a very real way, I feel like I was robbed and cheated, eaten up by the system. It was as if I was handed a life script that I was too young to even know how to question. I felt like I had signed a declaration of love for my husband and in doing so agreed to whole lot of small print attached to the bottom. I recall being stunned when my Bishop congratulated me on being ready for the celestial kingdom, for the temple. I sat there thinking, "I just want to be with my boyfriend!" The unfortunate thing is, I didn't get married because I really wanted to get married. And I certainly didn't get married because I wanted to make covenants in the temple. Yes, I loved him, and we were best friends, but the marriage itself was more or less just a fancy release form to have sex with him. There, I said it. Is that immature, shallow? Sure, but that's where I was. We loved each other and enjoyed a strong chemistry together, and at the time it felt impossible for us to be together and not be together. And there was no narrative in my life that told me there were perhaps worse things in this world than having pre-marital sex. I moved forward according to what I understood.
No one told me the beginning would feel like the end.
I cried a lot during that time. I cried before and after I went through the temple, an event that was supposed to be the crowning glory of my religious life. I cried as a newlywed. I cried when I felt so old and distanced from all my peers at the age of 21. Let me reinforce, these tears weren't over my husband. The tears were for the confusion I felt at being swept up by a current, feeling powerless against its pull. I didn't have the strength or awareness to put the brakes on and examine whether I was in that current for me, or for others. I gave into that current, I trusted it. And I spent many years walking around in a kind of haze, unsure of who I was or what I wanted or if I had any right to demand it for myself. I had not imagined anything for myself beyond marriage, and that was my mistake, though I will venture to say it was an attitude reinforced to me by my church.
We were young and poor and I didn't know what I wanted to study, but my husband did know what he wanted. Where I'd dreamt of falling in love, he'd dreamt of business models and website schemes. While I waffled over what I should do when I grew up, he hit the ground running. Money was very tight trying to cover two tuitions, especially when only one student was getting anywhere. Plus, I'd been raised believing that he was meant to be the provider and I was meant to stay home and have babies. So it felt natural to fore-go my own education and support him while he finished his. I had the na´ve belief that making sure my husband was doing all the right things, even at my own expense, would ensure my happiness.
Once when I was 22 or 23, I auditioned for the dance team again without telling Greg, just to see if I could still make it as a dancer. I did make it. And I quit the next day, believing that we couldn't afford it. I eventually quit going to school altogether and started working full time at menial jobs.
I'd managed to arrange my life so that being a mother was all that was left for me. By the time Greg graduated, I was pregnant. He would be making a decent living, we were moving, and it didn't seem necessary or even feasible for me to continue at school. I stopped working. I became the stay at home mom. This would likely have felt like an arrival for many women, but for me, it felt a bit more like finally giving up on myself. Context is everything right?
Slowly, methodically, I had disappeared, and became that mother who was celebrated by my church. I didn't choose her though, nor did I feel like I earned her. She happened to me.
The dancer, the writer, the designer, the dreamer....she was hung up in the closet with all the clothes I couldn't fit in to anymore after having a baby.
I was depressed. After my first child, I briefly went on anti-depressants, but they didn't seem to do anything for me. In my gut, I don't think I was clinically depressed, just suffering from baby blues. I was traumatized by the changes in my life that felt like they were happening to me instead of because of me. I never felt like I was steering the vehicle. Never felt like I was writing that script. I was passenger, spectator. I was still lost in that current, flailing about. A victim. Someone waiting to be rescued. My fellow swimmers often couldn't understand why I wasn't content to go with the flow.
They say if you don't decide, life decides for you. Goodness, I do know that now.
Life had also managed to stretch my heart and mind, giving me room to grow and learn. And I will be forever grateful for those things that allowed me to grow. They hurt, but they made me stronger.
With that strength, I was able to pull myself out of that current enough to take a look around, and examine what I'd surrendered myself to. I gave myself permission to think in ways that had previously frightened me. I saw everything with new eyes. Finally.....finally, I recognized that all power was within me. And the ideas and the people who'd had power over me before only had it in the first place because I gave it to them.
And just like that, I was no longer victim to that current, no longer subject to its whims.
In Buddhism, the lotus represents transcendence above the murky waters of desire and attachment. I was like the lotus, resting in blissful liberation. Blooming.
At least that's where I try to rest. Some days are better than others. I count myself blessed to have a supportive husband by my side, who took this journey with me, step by step. And I could never regret the love that brought me two sweet little boys. They are the bright windows who burst open when other doors shut.
Last modified: 2017-05-27 05:38:29
Name: Staci Ulrich (320 weeks, 5 days ago)
I absolutely love your words and can relate to them. I admire your courage to speak of your experience. Such a breath of fresh air!!! Keep sharing....
Name: Greg Bramwell (320 weeks, 5 days ago)
I love you babe, looking forward to more life with you.
Name: Heather (320 weeks, 4 days ago)
Beautiful! Thanks for sharing, Hillary! I love your posts!
Name: Trapper (320 weeks, 2 days ago)
I knew that if I bookmarked your blog, eventually this awesome post would happen. And here we are!
People rarely realize the power they wield over their own destiny. Too often are people swept up into a coalesced vehicle of ideas they aren't sure they even want. But they keep rowing anyway.
Only when a person actually decided if they want to row or not, is when they are handed the key to the shackles holding them inside. From then on, they are the sole person who chooses to stay or not.
To be a bit more literal, it is not an uncommon occurrence that two younglings fall in love, get married solely to have sex, and are then miserable. You see it all the time around here where the couple just hates each other or they end up getting divorced and having to deal with kids. It sickens me that people are misled in such ways that can leave such lasting impacts on their lives. It isn't that people should always succumb to their urges, but sex is a very powerful+awesome thing that should NOT be hidden away and frowned upon. Well, in most cases.
Anyway, this was a fantastic post and I am clapping ACROSS THE INTERNET for you.
Name: Mark (319 weeks, 4 days ago)
Beautifully written. I'm glad you found your way out of the box and into the authentic life you were supposed to live all along. Good luck as you continue on your journey. You have many fellow travelers walking beside you.
Name: Trevor (319 weeks, 2 days ago)
Beautiful post, Hillary. I shared this with Becky as soon as I got home. I'm also grateful to have broken free from the currents grip. While I'm grateful for all that I have, I sometimes mourn for the lost ambitions and opportunities that I dreamed of but never seriously considered because it wasn't within the currents set course. Life seems so much more exciting and real now, setting my own course, making my own decisions, and forming my own opinions.
Name: Jeb (318 weeks, 3 days ago)
@ Trapper: Your comments about these miserable couple who choose to get married so they can have sex are statistically irrelevant. For every unhappy couple that chose to wait to have sex I'll show you an equally unhappy couple who fully indulged in the "awesomeness" of sex before marriage.
My conclusion: Sex is not the determining factor in why couples on both side of that fence are unhappy.
Name: AllieKay (317 weeks, 2 days ago)
This story sounds A LOT like my story. When I married my husband, I felt like my marriage had nothing to do with me. I felt like my body and my life had just been deeded over to the church. It's like the institution of marriage wasn't given to me as a gift. I was fed to it. I've since taken time off from the church to heal, and if and when I go back, I think I will be a very different kind of Mormon than I was before.
Name: Marie (317 weeks, 2 days ago)
Wow! You've written my story; only much more beautiful and coherent than I could have done. I love the line, "I gave myself permission to think in ways that had previously frightened me" - that is exactly how I feel and I am loving life with my eyes wide open now. I saw your link from Mormon Stories FB group, so glad I did.
Name: Mcarp (317 weeks, 2 days ago)
Beautiful. Like Marie, you've given voice to some of my experiences, as well as my wife's. I like the part about being given a life script when we were too young to know to question it. Beautiful.
Name: Donna Gonzales (317 weeks ago)
you are a good writer Hillary. Very thoughtful thoughts have gone into what you write. You are peeling down those outer layers to get to the inner ones, I respect what you have written and your thoughts and your ability to put them down on paper. String words together as I had a professor say. keep on thinking and trying to figure out your life. good luck love donna g
Name: Travis (313 weeks, 2 days ago) www.shellytheboxturtle.blogspot.com
I hope you are involved with lots and lots of teenage age girls in your life. Your wisdom will save them a lot of frustration and confusion. The boys would sure benefit from it, too.
My wife and I waited a long time for kids, and I got tired of comments and suggestions our priorities were off. Made me want to avoid church or make up disgusting medical conditions about myself in order to be left alone. My favorite moment was hearing a local church leader use his cranky voice to decry homosexuality and young couples who use birth control. In the same sentence. I'm glad things written by leaders who are actually important (Presidents Kimball and Hinckley) matched my understanding of life - that taking care of the kids once born is what's important, and it's no one's business on the timing.
Thanks for writing your experience.
Name: Juliane McLean (311 weeks, 5 days ago) www.mollymormonseviltwin.blogspot.com
this was sad to read at first, because I have felt so similarly, so overwhelmed, so foggy, unclear about my own life. Like I woke up one morning and didn't understand how I got to that place. But I am so so happy that you are claiming your life back!!! More power to you, woman! Sending you a big fat hug (and many thanks for linking this post on my blog :)
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