July 30, 2015

get happy

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The last few days have been exceptionally hard. My anxiety has relapsed enough to where I feel no control anymore.

It isn't facebook.
it isn't my diet.
it isn't my sleep.

I just want to be happy.

I had a reminder of what happiness is while browsing the photos and videos of my children on facebook. I knew I wasn't as anxious then, but I didn't feel happy. I rarely felt happy. My "normal" is content and that is unacceptable. my normal is just surviving, and it's sad that it has taken me so long to realize that "normal" isn't what god wants for me. I look back at those videos of my sweet two-year old paxton and wonder why I have  spent so much time being ungrateful. I just don't  understand how I have been given such a good life and it takes hitting rock bottom to get the memo.

I feel overwhelmed. between paxton pushing the limits of my patience literally every moment, emberlee needing to be held more than usual, my body in constant pain, the house a wreck, the finances begging for mercy, and John and I still struggling in our marriage is  just too much.  And yet, when people ask how they can help, I have no idea what to tell them.

They can't raise my children for me
they can't take my body pain away
they can't always pick up after me
they can't put money in my bank account
they can't mediate the way I communicate with John.

...

I screamed at paxton today.
 like I have never done, ever. the kind of scream people do in their pillow when they are exploding with anger. I just lost it, and I felt guilty immediately after. It didn't sound like me. It wasn't me. Who is this woman in the mirror? I'm lost and feel alone all the time. I feel helpless a lot too. I should probably tell my midwife that.

I feel distant from god right now too, but that is my own fault.

 just want to be that woman in the photos.  the one snuggling her children. the one patient with the heartaches life has given her, instead of feeling like god is just a bully. The woman humble enough to realize that this is not the end of the world, it's just a rough patch that gives me practice to overcome whatever may be next.

tomorrow needs to be better. It has to be better. 



July 28, 2015

My conversion story Part 3: Justification


  The universal "cosmological" aka metaphysical doctrines of the Church really piqued my interest, and lead me to a crusade to find more details about the spirit world, the nature of god, and my role as a woman in a physical body. I read a few books by LDS authors that lead me to looking into other belief systems, to see just how many of them reiterated the same ideas. There are a lot of systems and faiths that teach things synonymous to the Church.

The law of attraction, energy healing, and the more "woo-woo" concepts in the natural/ alternative community lead me down a rabbit hole that I was eager to enter. I figured if  I approached the material from a Christ-like perspective, and it felt good, then I was ok to continue learning about it.

I dove head-first into witchcraft
 The things I started learning were the same things that I learned at church. I justified this path before I even decided to leave the church, by thinking that I didn't have to practice anything I didn't feel was in line with church teachings. And I was upset that the church said it was bad, when they did the very things that witches do, especially regarding the ritualistic nature of temple ordinances, and the vast similarities between them.  I still get a little upset at the stigma surrounding it when nobody really knows  what they profess, even though I no longer identify myself as a witch.

I learned about the elements, the close communion with my Father in heaven, my mother in heaven, the spirit world, my intuition (or the spirit) and to me, it became evident very quickly that I was a daughter of godly parents, with divine authority and power to create life, and call upon him whenever and where ever I needed him. All things that I already knew from the church teachings, but mistakenly didn't take it so literally. It was empowering to refer to myself as a Goddess and believe it. It was refreshing to feel the unconditional love for myself that I knew my Father in Heaven had for me. It was real. And I miss feeling those things so powerfully, especially in my times of pure depression when I felt like I have nothing to look forward to, no redeeming qualities, and no control over my life or emotions, and no way to help myself out.
I struggled a lot with the temple Endowment because I felt it directly contradicted not just scriptural accuracy, but also what I thought in my heart to be the nature of My divine parentage. It felt really backwards.

So I met with my bishop and talked to him about it, but my concerns were politely and expertly dismissed and had a long, powerful discussion about other things going on in my life, including what was happening in my marriage.

John and I had been going through some really rough stuff, and even though he knew I was questioning my position with the church, he reassured me that he was willing to make our marriage work regardless of my faith. It brought me comfort to hear it, but I didn't really believe him.

 What made me different from others on my path, was that I didn't worship multiple gods- or a god different from Elohim. Instead, my purpose in learning witchcraft was to seek his face, and the face of my Mother in Heaven even closer than I had before. My "spellbook" was a large-print version of the scriptures. My altar was simply the altars in the temple.  My path was lonely, and I knew it always would be, regardless of staying in the church or not. Having a foot in both worlds was hard.
I had these feelings and pondering kept secretly in my heart, and eventually, this empowered feeling of goddess-hood and total control had me wondering why I needed a savior. I believed God's love was unconditional and as he is a perfect being who created me, I must be perfect as I am his creation. I believed that intentions and the goodness and love in a person's heart, but mainly actions were the determining factors to being in the presence of god in the afterlife, as opposed to the signs, tokens and keywords given to a very select few that may not even honor those gifts in this life.

It was about this time that I was introduced to the idea that The bible was a book of metaphors and Christ was a myth. And I simply chose to believe that, because navigating the contradictions in the scriptures and other gospel teachings, to the pure love I believed God to have for everyone just got too hard and exhausting. It was a cop-out. Witchcraft was about balance and unconditional love, and it felt like the farther away from Christ I fell, the more he seemed to be about ultimatums.

 So, I  rejected Christ as my savior
 I rejected the holy ghost as a  member of the godhead, and began my journey into practicing witchcraft, untethered from the "restrictions" I had placed on it. The Sundays John took the kids to Church for 3 hours, I stayed home and listened to podcasts on how to learn witchcraft.  I never did get a spell book. I have never cast a spell. I have never had a real altar with the tools used to cast. But my heart began to grow really dark. I didn't feel empowered anymore. I didn't feel love. From myself or anyone. I felt more confused, and stuck on finding more evidence to support my decision, because I couldn't possibly purposely go against God. I had to disprove the principle of sin, and no longer believe them before I could go and break the commandments. I adopted the belief that sin isn't real. That Satan is made up, and that as long as I didn't harm another life including my own, life was a free-for-all.

And so I started making decisions based on the "free for all" mindset. I had to fight my conscience  daily; reminding myself over and over again that the negative feelings I was having regarding these decisions was simply because they were not familiar to me, and the effects of brainwashing. So I purposely dove into the unfamiliarity. In order for me to differentiate what was wrong and what was unfamiliar, I had to experience all things. and even now it still rings true, I did have some brainwashing happen to me.

The circumstances in my life at that point were painful and frustrating. I was hurting. I was lonely, and I was constantly seeking support, and got it from all the wrong people. None of them appealed to love or logic. none of them appealed to what was right- and after a time I really wanted them to tell me to do what was wrong, because I just couldn't deal with the limitations anymore. Even when I didn't believe in Satan or Christ or the holy Ghost, I still knew there was a right and a wrong, but the lines were so blurred, I ended up loosing some precious gifts of the spirit; mainly my gift of discernment. But I never realized that the holy ghost was long gone by that point.

July 23, 2015

My conversion story part 2: Anger

John and I really only had one thing in common when we first started talking in a romantic setting, and that was how much we loved God. 

I met John when I was 16 and he was a new missionary in my hometown.
He was good-natured and always happy, and there was a humility about him that none of the other Elders I had encountered seemed to posses. He seemed to radiate with love and gratitude for life and for the opportunity to be on his mission and serve the lord. But I was not physically attracted to him and my mind was otherwise occupied with someone else.

So, when he returned home from his mission, I was in the midst of my newly-independent phase, and would ask him via facebook what his particular insights were about some of my struggles when I was really low.  I always felt comfort in the things he would say, and the spirit said, "you know, this is the kind of man you need to marry" and it went from there. I got the courage to tell him just that, even though I knew the outcome. We agreed to see each other before making any decisions about a long- distance relationship. The spirit was so strong when we reconnected in person, and I felt so comfortable around him, that when he left 48 hours later back to Arizona, I cried. Really, really hard. In front of my parents, which I had never done.

Being with him felt so different in comparison to the 2 other boys I had dated. So full of conflicting feelings and generally really uneasy, and then all of a sudden this unrelenting peace? I wasn't happy about enduring another  long distance relationship, and I was sick of feeling stuck in Florida, so I donated most of my worldy possesions, sold my car, quit my job, and had my feet on Arizona soil a week later- all of my belongings in a check-on suitcase and a carry-on bag. Once the decision was made, everything fell into place.

We had a complicated courtship, but I still felt peace around him, even though I was nervous about marriage. We got engaged in October and married in December.


We worked and schooled and lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment for about six months, until I lost my job. We moved in with John's parents for a few months, and that was my first time really understanding why I seemed to have so much emotional baggage and insecurity. I had never realized that how my dad treated me was defined as abuse, until I was sitting home alone and reading the book "healing your emotional self"  by Beverly Engel. It was a rough realization and so many memories were unlocked and flooded  me to the point I would cry myself to sleep every night for weeks. I didn't know how to process these memories, these re-opened wounds.

And that is when I started feeling the anger. 
How could so many people in the church have known what was going on and did nothing about it?
How did my Dad gain so much influence over my mom, that she was too scared to stand up to him?
How did my Dad feel right holding a temple recommend while hurting my siblings still at home?
How did my bishop feel right doing nothing?

I was now at odds with God.

we eventually moved out, bought our own house, and I got a job that helped soothe the sting, but I endured this anger for several months until John said I needed to get help. I finished counseling and felt better, but I soon thereafter Got pregnant and it triggered the anger all over again. Even though I had many testimony- building and faith-affirming experiences. The people in my ward triggered me and I was just over it. I was coming to church because John was going and I wanted Paxton to go too. This carried on into my next pregnancy, when I had basically decided to stop wearing my garments and was going on Sundays because we were in the nursery.

John's parents noticed I wasn't wearing my garments one day, and out of concern had asked me if everything was ok. I was really irritated and impatient and basically told them it was none of their damn business. Just to give a bit of insight to just how angry I was on a constant basis.

I would always get frustrated with lessons on the atonement, because it seemed like I was using it to heal from what had been done to me- not what I had done. It didn't feel empowering, it felt the opposite. I had no choice but to give my hurts to the lord because I had no control over what the past had done. I had to wait for the lord to heal me in his timing so that I could move on from this phase of anger. That didn't feel empowering. And it also didn't help that my bishop didn't show up for an appointment that took me copious amount of humility to set up in the first place, so that I could figure out what to do about my feelings. I felt invisible all over again.

 I had periods of stalwart behavior.
 As angry as I was, I tried even harder to fight it with the gospel, and my efforts would wax and wane until I got comfortable just floating for a while. I finally decided that this needed to be done. I was exhausted from the pent-up anger I felt towards the church and my Dad. I needed to make a choice. I started digging into the deep universal doctrines of the gospel because that felt like the only thing I could rely on. So I started there.

July 20, 2015

setbacks

I've been back on Facebook for less than a week, and I have felt the anxiety begin to re-emerge.
I'm a little bitter that I have to be on facebook in order for anyone to really be in touch with me. I enjoy connecting with people a lot, and it's depressing that I don't have more people to call.

But there is so much fear-mongering and information on my news feed, that it upsets me- and I don't even know it. I didn't notice anything until last night, when I had a random anxiety episode despite being surrounded by people I really love spending time with; and it continued into this morning after watching a video of a woman giving birth in the car, and it really disturbing me. I felt so good all week last week. so free.  I can't stand this anxiety.

It's a lot harder for me to remember how far I have come
It's a lot harder to take care of myself.
It's a lot harder to be happy with my children, and to be patient with them. I was yelling at them as soon as they got out of bed this morning for literally no reason.

Something just isn't right, and so I think a very serious inventory at my facebook account is in order. Ideally I wouldn't have one at all, but that leaves me more lonely and isolated than ever due to everyone being busy and not really having time to either text me or send me an e-mail. Instead I'm just going to severely clean up my account (again) and be a lot more strict with my usage. If that doesn't work, I will have no choice but to eliminate facebook for good.


July 15, 2015

My conversion story: part 1 - Origins

There are 2 ways to be introduced to the Mormon Church. 
 One is to be born and raised in it, and the other is investigating with lessons from the missionaries. Either way, baptism is required for membership. We call those who have investigated with the missionaries "converts", but there is a saying that everyone in the church is a convert; it just depends when the conversion happens. When you grow up in the church, you can be baptized at the age of 8, but being so young, your "conversion" may not happen until later.
My experience was unique. I was born and raised in the church. My direct line of ancestry was intimately  involved in the foundation of it, and so I am considered a Multi-generational mormon. The pioneers (the converts) in my family being Newel K and Elizabeth Whitney on my mother's side- My great-great-great-great grandparents.

The church was everything  in our lives growing up.
It dictated every thought, action, and word that we lived by. We weren't the family that had scripture time, or family prayer, or even family home evening, but we went to church every Sunday, because that was the expectation. So I grew up in the church, knowing that not everyone was a member of my faith, but knowing it was a lifestyle and a culture and not just a belief system.
When talking about conversion stories for peole who grew up in the church, many people say that they relied on the testimonies of their parents until they developed their own. I never saw my parents model the things that are associated with testimony building- such as prayer and scripture study and so on. But my parents were pretty strict enforcers of gospel related teachings and standards set by the church- for us kids.

 As a teenager in seminary, I learned to study and love the scriptures on my own.
I gained a testimony that was mine, on my own. I felt the spirit at a very young age, and knew it was the spirit. I had many experiences that cannot be explained or rationalized away. I loved the Lord.  My home life and my church participation gave me the ability to differentiate how the spirit works early on. Those teenage years were pretty rough, because not only was I grieving the loss of my sisters, I also began to see some of the hypocrisies in my life circumstances coming to the surface, and got frustrated why we weren't like the other families in our ward and Why we weren't like the family the church promotes. I remember getting really upset during a Young women's activity held in a leader's home. It felt so good  to be there, and it made me sad that I would have to leave and go back home at the end of the hour activity. It made me sad that my Dad had neglected to make our home a place where I could feel the spirit like that, due to the choices he made. I was really bitter about it. I knew there was nothing I could do to change my home environment, so I was determined that if I felt the spirit regularly and was close to the Lord, that nothing else really mattered. So I clung to the gospel like my life depended on it, because I felt like it did.


But understanding the gospel, and knowing Christ like I did, and living at home and being treated the way I was treated (most often in the name of Christ) , Life started to become unbearable. So I asked for help. I went to my bishop and said I just couldn't do it anymore. I needed out.

 I was turned away. 

His relationship with my parents was too valuable to risk offending them by stepping in. I learned years later that every single one of my sisters- including Emily just before she died- came and asked for help, and got the same answer.

But I continued on my way, begging my grandmother to help me as a last resort, leaving home a week after my 18th birthday with no job, no money, no car and feeling heavy. My testimony remained pretty firm, and I really leaned on the lord and my grandmother to get me thorough those months of total instability. There were many times I cried myself to sleep because I just didn't know what to do. I wasn't acclimated to real life. Anything outside the confines of my Dad's house arrest was overwhelming and filled me with anxiety- not to mention I had not graduated high school yet and I didn't think I was anywhere close to being prepared for the GED test.

The instability continued after I graduated from seminary.
I went from job to job, never making enough money to find a place to live on my own, and so I spent a good 4 weeks couch surfing and living out of my car to be closer to my job until I had some of the kindest people I had ever met, let me live with them. I prayed really hard, and often,that my pitiful situation would not drive me to move back home. I was determined to never go back, and time after time, the Lord would always come through, and delivered the righteous desires of my heart. My testimony was still really strong. I was at a point where I could hear my scriptures calling to me from my 2nd story bedroom, and the spirit was my constant companion.

And eventually, my spiritual aptitude lead me to John.

July 13, 2015

The tattooed Mormon

I can't remember what lead me to follow Al Carraway on instagram, but I found myself  drawn to her because of her pre-church lifestyle. (I've always been a sucker for tattoos- so many stories behind them) I am finding that the stories of "converts" really help my own testimony, and they feel reassuring to me that I'm not just returning to church because it's what I'm used to (even though that was my original motivation).

She posted that she was speaking in mesa, and I felt like I should go. 
And I got opposition  every step of the way.

 I knew if I wanted to go, I wanted to go alone.
I knew that involved asking John to watch the kids, and to take the vehicle with the good air conditioning (the one with both carseats installed).

So from 9am to 4pm, I went back and forth on whether or not to talk to John about it, because that was my first step in making my decision more concrete.

 It felt as if I was wrestling with myself.
And so, I kept making up reasons not to go, even after I got a very supportive green light from John.

We usually have dinner with friends every Sunday night, and we were really late. I wasn't going to have a lot of time to eat or really visit with anyone, so I figured I just wouldn't go.

But I found myself digging in my purse for my keys and heading out the door. I figured I was running late and there wouldn't be any place to park. If I couldn't find a decent parking spot, I wasn't going to bother.

Before I even had sight of the building, I could see a line of people walking to the church building from what looked like half a mile away- the parking lot and grassy areas were full. People had parked on every inch of legal curb for over two blocks and into the neighborhood behind the building.  I called John and told him I was going to come back. I am 31 weeks pregnant and in constant pain; I couldn't justify walking that far for something I wasn't sure I wanted to attend.

After parking 2 or 3 blocks away, and walking towards the building, a little overcome with emotion. I was really confused, and conflicted. Something  really didn't want me there. My process of elimination continued, so If i wasn't able to find a good spot to sit, I wasn't going to stay.

 Every room was packed and HOT. so much body heat from the thousands of people standing in the hallways and seated in the chapel and cultural hall. I thought that since this was advertised to the unmarried college students, that the mother's lounge would likely be empty- knowing that the meeting was "piped" into the room and had nice comfy chairs. I opened the door and voila! an empty armchair in an ice-cold, quiet room. Two other ladies were in there, one of them with a child. I sat and listened for about an hour when another lady came in with her kid, and started making a bunch of noise.

Determined to not miss a single word, I got up, and sought another location. Because clearly, after the battle I had with myself over and over again, and still attending- I was certain there was something I was supposed to hear.

There was a metal folding chair in the sauna/foyer with my name on it, so I sat and listened to the rest of the meeting. Then the closing song. Then the closing prayer. nothing. I walked back to my car alone in the dark. Once again overcome with emotion, I was more frustrated than anything. Maybe my apprehension, or opposition, or whatever it was, was too strong for me to hear what I needed to hear. maybe there were too many people and I felt too overwhelmed to feel peace?

I am normally quite perceptive, and can glean some sort of answer or solution, but I was feeling pretty empty, and a little lost.

It was a great story.  She delivered her message well, and I related to parts of it; but what part of it was intended for me, I still don't know. Did I even feel the spirit? Maybe a little. Was I disappointed that I went?  Not at all.

 I've had time to consider what it was about this ordeal that was supposed to me for me, and John said that maybe I was supposed to be there for someone else.

Maybe someone I knew saw me there and felt something they needed to feel.
Maybe everyone saw this preggo waddling around and it inspired them.
Maybe the speaker needed to know I was there.

The one thing I did feel, was inspiration to talk about my own story with the Church. maybe me testimony will bring others to Christ. Maybe talking about my heart- wrenching journey away from Christ and back again is something that someone, somewhere is needing. Maybe my story is an answer to someone's heartfelt prayers.

Maybe.


 

July 9, 2015

All is well

Normally I like to keep these updates about a week apart, but I have had a few things happen that I  really wanted to share.

First of all, my dizziness symptoms have seemed to disappear. The last few days have been really nice and yesterday I felt 100% normal. Every once in a while I will feel a bit off-balance, but I can usually correct it quickly. I have not felt this good in months.

I've re-incorporated gluten, dairy and sugar in moderation back into my diet with success. Grilled cheese sandwiches never tasted so darn good. I've gained 16 pounds in the last 4 weeks or so, which is a small triumph for me. It's a great indication that I am eating enough, which has been a huge struggle this pregnancy.

I met with my cardiologist and went over the results from my echo and 48 hour holter monitor, and basically everything came back on the range of normal. No holes, no enlarged heart, and a strong heart at that. He did say I have a tiny leak in one of my valves, but that is so incredibly common and non-threatening that it's normal. I also do not have an arrhythmia like I thought. I have PAC's which essentially is just an occasional extra beat. also normal and non-threatening. There was nothing indicating that my heart was causing any dizziness, and I can move forward from this knowing that My body is capable and healthy.

I just feel really good. I've been waiting for this day for a long time and I am grateful I am not taking this for granted. 

no more doctor's appointments! I can move forward with my last weeks of pregnancy feathering my nest and anticipating Maisie's arrival in peace.

We had a Dog fall into our lap. Simba is a female golden retriever/ white Pyrenees mix, and contributes a lot to the comfort I feel lately.
We are supposed to be dog-sitting, but due to the circumstances she was in prior to taking her in, we feel uncomfortable giving her back. It helps that she is the best behaved dog I have ever encountered. Awesome with the kids. super snugly and sweet, and is not food motivated at all. I left food out on the counter and left her alone in the house for 5 hours and came home to nothing out of place. We love her!

 We've spent the last week and a half painting the house and getting it freshened up, including hanging pictures and new window coverings. It's taking a long time because we are trying to be meticulous about it, and I have been left alone to get the work done a few times. I move a bit slower haha.

The remaining list of tasks seems daunting. We've got a ton still to do, and John returns to work in just a few days. Gotta crack the whip! 




July 6, 2015

Chill

Today I have a follow-up with my cardiologist. I had an echo done about a weekish ago and had to wear a heart monitor for 48 hours to see if my heart arrhythmia was contributing or causing the dizziness.

I dropped the monitor off a week ago and had not heard anything from them until Friday when they called to confirm an appointment that I didn't set up. It made me pretty upset, and I don't know what was more upsetting- the lack of communication and keeping me informed, or the fact I needed a follow-up. I guess I didn't know what to expect, and within a matter of seconds the world was on my shoulders.

I was overcome with fear and worry. So I did what I've done a lot lately, and got on my knees and prayed. And it was like magic. For the first time in months, I experience comfort that things are okay within a matter of minutes after. I just wasn't worried about it. What a sweet release.

I sit here typing today, anticipating the appointment in a few hours, and a little agitated from the experiences of the day so far; but not worrying about it.


The last week or so, I've had a release of worry. Those fears I have- I can still get through them if they happen, even though it's not ideal. I've handed my cares over to the Lord, knowing that he will carry them and me through whatever it is I trudge through.

if I have to switch prenatal care providers and surrender my home birth; it's not ideal, but I'm not afraid. I can do it.

If I have to (heaven forbid) have surgery, I'll be afraid but I can still overcome it. my life will go on.

Thing is, neither of these scenarios feels like it will happen, and so I am just not that worried about it.

Because I think I've nailed down the dizziness triggers, and so far I've consistently been able to track and relieve the dizziness either before, or as it starts.

I think the reason it's taken me this long to figure it out  is because I have been bogged with worry and fear and impatience, instead of slowing down and paying attention to my body. There is no place for peace when you are consumed by fear. I feel the peace and I am almost positive I've finally got this figured out.

I am 30 weeks pregnant this week, and I have never been more excited to meet one of my babies.


mini-rant : There are over a million words in the english language, and CHILL is one that I have come to find irritating. What is comforting or reassuring about being told to Chill? nothing.