Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Own Confusion

This is only my second post, but just a heads up. I'm not posting my story chronologically. As I discuss different topics of thought, contemplation, study, and reading I've experienced over the last few years, they're not necessarily posted in the order of when I experienced them.

My own shift of the last year had seeds planted at a young age. I think that's why I see the changes of the last few years as simply a continuation of a path I've always been on. Different vistas, different perspectives, same path. I remember being about 9-11, and I was out running errands with my mom. She was telling me a story about someone who didn't have the Mormon church standards to protect them, and was now suffering. From my perspective the story was being explained and then attempted to be used as a point to illustrate how the Church keeps us "safe" from doing and experiencing bad things, and so is evidence why the Church is true. As she was tying the story into proof for the truth of the Church I began to feel hot and aggitated inside. A thought arose, something like, "It seems like that doesn't have anything to do with the church. There are "good," happy, people outside of the church, and "bad," unhappy people in the church, so that doesn't make any sense."

Rather than mentioning my disagreement or discomfort. I nodded and pretended to agree. I think the reason I remember this particular incident when there were many of these kinds of moments growing up is that my mom followed up by saying..."you're such a good girl, so teachable." She even asked if I knew what that meant and explained the difference between being "prideful" and being "teachable." Being teachable had something to do with listening and accepting without getting defensive. I remember at this point feeling like a pressure cooker inside. She was "complimenting" me on something that I was currently angry at myself about, that I couldn't speak up...that I didn't dare to share my hurt and anger and confusion. It was in this moment, like many others, that the hurt and anger and shame was enough for me to shut down. I would withdraw emotionally. At one point in my late twenties my mom shared something to the effect, "of all the children, you're the one I feel I know the least." Strange, being that I'm the oldest, and have been around about 10 years longer than my youngest sibling, and yet am the least known. And no wonder, I've always been so afraid to speak up.

It was never my mom's fault that I did this. I still don't connect with connections she was making as proof that the Church was true, but I was the one who chose to pretend I agreed, to not share my opinion. I was the one who was afraid of being seen as "rebellious" or "wrong" or "bad" or "lost." My mom never forced me to agree, and though I can offer my child-self compassion and understanding of why I believed I had to agree to be safe & loved, it was my own confusion that affected me. Later on, I watched my younger sisters being more open and vocal than I, and I realize now that I was the one always cautious of being hurt, or being misunderstood. I was also afraid of hurting someone else. I didn't want my mom to feel that her efforts at mothering weren't good enough. And so, as I focused my energy into "protecting" her and "protecting" me, I learned to shut down.

My grandmother passed away about a month ago, and I have thought much of her since then. I knew she was an orphan and had lived with a foster family, but that's all I knew. During her funeral I learned that she was three years old when her mother gave her up, due to mental and emotional struggles that kept her from being able to care for my grandmother. My heart broke when I learned this. I'd always assumed she'd never known her mother, but to think of being a three year old child and having your mother give you up...whew...I had no idea. From there, my grandmother lived with over over 10 different foster families, never being adopted into any one family.

In my research I have come upon theories that we carry genetic memory in our cells. If so, this may explain my unexplainable fear of abandonment. Whether or not that's why I feel the way I do, hearing this story made it more clear that a child deep inside me believes that if I do something wrong or I'm not perfect I'll be given up, I'll be unwanted. And so, I've never learned to speak up. I am practicing awareness of this fear and how it affects me, and am learning to trust that I am lovable, that it's okay for me to not be perfect, and that when someone says something that doesn't fit for me, I have the right to express a difference of opinion or experience, and can do so with love and without having to be afraid, defensive, or angry. I feel I've got a ways to go with this practice, and while I still tremor with fear (literally) when I do make efforts, what a cool feeling to be sharing my voice, and ME with those I love.

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