A small, yet wordy, preface: I have a lot to say. I always have a lot to say, and usually Dave or a few phenomenal friends get that earful. With Dave working far, far away, and because I believe one friend needs to attend to her dog (hi, Opie) and the other, for instance, well, I’ve already spoken with her at least seventeen times just today, I think I need to dust off my old blog, and find another way to let these words escape. Oh yes, I used to blog.
These days, I try to keep silent. I stop my thinking, and simply freeze the overly-analyzed thoughts, only letting them escape when letting them free is better than keeping them in, like now. I have such an icy mouthful accumulating. It is like I am stuck in that space right after, say, one shoves a giant spoonful of Mint Oreo Cookie ice cream in one’s mouth, and currently that yummy, very cold spoonful is stuck, frozen right in that spot, the spot the ice cream moves to as one begins to swallow; uncomfortable at best. As my throat throbs, my mind is confusing my frozen brain chaos for an epic ice cream headache. Words need to get out! My eyes water while I reflexively place my warm tongue to the roof of my mouth. Seriously, if I am not careful, as my frozen words begin to thaw, some poor, unsuspecting Whole Foods employee, or worse, a terrified mom (because she will be terrified once she hears what I have to say) well, that unsuspecting soul will get an earful of my now warming words. I can’t hold the frozen forever. I cannot cover the enormous mouthful or the enormity of this issue in one post either. Scratching the surface, kind of like nails on a chalkboard, is what I promise.
The Story: Remember what the airlines say, “Put your mask on first, and then help.” I think that sometimes we are so mired in our own stuff that we forget the, “And then help,” part (myself included).
It could have been anywhere. I could have been with any group of women, yet a Mormon Church Relief Society Meeting is where it happened to be. In case you do not know, Relief Society is the women’s auxiliary arm of the Mormon Church. On Sundays, Relief Society fills one of the three church hours. I debated whether I should include where I was, because I did not want to distract from the story, yet including it will, in my opinion, paint a clearer picture. So yes, I found my way to a Mormon Church Meeting, (long story, don’t read into it either way, by the way, don’t judge, ok, judge, but do not assume).
As I sat in this Mormon Church Relief Society Meeting, my head was pounding, and not from ice cream. I did not want to be there, but there is where I was. For a quick escape, I sat close to the door, next to my sweet, and very talkative neighbor. I listened as the women teaching the lesson shared her message. She asked for comments, and in the one place I thought I was free from the Internet, there it was. After a woman shared her dislike and disgust of Facebook, 500 gazillion members and counting, “I may be the only person in the world under 80 years old who does not have a Facebook Account blah, blah, blah…” Another woman sheepishly raised her hand, “I just joined Facebook and I have connected with family I never knew…” Like erupting popcorn, all over the room the hands flew. Church is a place where no one really knows me, and thank God, no one there knew I used to blog. Pop. Pop. Pop. The hands popping high, and I thinking, “How can I be at church and people be having this discussion?” yet there I was. And the there was the hand, and like my first spoonful of ice cream, once the hand went down, her words began to churn, “I am a young mother. I love my children. I am crafty. I would like to make money for my family. I am also busy raising my children. There are all of those CRAFTY MORMON WOMEN BLOGS. There are the Mormon Women Blogs that tell you how to make your house just like theirs and there are the Mormon Women Blogs that talk about their happy, happy family. [insert frustrated pause here] I cannot be them. I want to. I can’t. Their kids are perfect. Their lives are perfect. They make money from showing the rest of us their perfect worlds. I am too busy wiping noses and changing diapers.” I could feel the I-am-less-than bleeding out of her.
And as I listened, I literally threw up in my mouth while my heart sank. It wasn’t the place, and maybe this isn’t the place, but COME ON PEOPLE, something needs to be said. As my story moves, I will tell you WHY. At that moment, while I sat in church, I did know better. I was simply afraid to speak. I should have opened my mouth, yet I remained silent. Shame on me!
The young woman continued, “If only I could be like them. If only I could be them.” I wanted to scream, but I didn’t want to look foolish, or better, more foolish than I was already feeling. I wanted to stand up in this room, a room of mostly strangers and shout, “YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!” I know. In my head, I see myself as so Free-to-Be-You-And-Me. Hey, Rosie Greer (most of you are too young. Google it), well, Rosie Greer had a point when he sang those sweet words, “It’s all right to cry,” and all the other things you do by simply being you.
As she talked, she sparked a conversation. I am so glad she did. The other women persisted, and the hands continued to pop. I wanted to assure her, I wanted to assure them. I wanted to say, “It’s a bunch of smoke and mirrors.” I wanted to tell them, “Sure, some of those women totally have it together, or at least mostly together, and are super cool, but behind those Arty Salt-Flats-Family-Photos (a Utah thing), behind those lovely Instagram shots, the “Facebook happy” posts, the “Martha Stewart” look (something she mentioned), the white-stitched-jeans, the dessert bars, and impeccably sewn Etsy dresses, I promise you they all struggle. They doubt. They compete. They take Prozac. They weep silently. They overeat. They starve themselves, they exercise too much, their husbands are depressed, and while they work on their blog, their houses are a mess.” Desperately, I wanted to say, “WOMEN, you are all good! You deserve a space on this planet. You DO NOT have to be perfect!” (Yes, I know I am being dramatic, but it breaks my soul to see and feel so much pain. And damn it, dramatic is what I feel.) And finally, I wanted to tell this woman. Hey, I don’t know you, but you are here. You seem like an awesome mom, and guess what, it just doesn’t matter. Did you know that scientifically getting “likes” on Facebook or Instagram are one of the simplest forms of a Dopamine response? It’s crack for the non-drug user. Facebook “likes” or sponsorships on your Crafty Mormon Blog do not mean that you are better, or more perfect. You are good!
Unfortunately, this is just a sampling of the bigger issue. I really wish they did, but Mormon Women Bloggers and Mormon Women have not cornered the market on competition, the freakish strive for perfection, the need to keep up, or at all costs, and I really mean, at all costs, the need to be number one. I think we all know that.
We seem to be living in a world where so much energy is spent on the outward, on the appearance of looking like we have it together, that our kids are perfect, damn it, and that our marriages are painless; all the while people are disintegrating on the inside. We aren’t taking time to be the smart pig, of The Three Little Pigs, that is, and we are building are very attractive houses with straw, you know what I mean? We are so concerned with keeping up that we are forgetting to build together. We live in a world where it is easier to look away, wait, I mean, pull out our cellphone and videotape the tragedy, then putting our cellphone in our pocket, offering to help, especially when helping is not the popular thing to do, and Epic Fail YouTube video gets us way more friends, right? This issue of striving is so big. I know I am at fault. Like I said and for starters, I tend to keep my mouth shut instead of sticking my words out there. Women we are hard on ourselves and we are hard on each other. Please, it has to change. Why the hell do we stand on top, crushing each other, instead of standing together? Why can’t we be more brave? Why don’t we take sides, or go the road less traveled? Seriously, why?
Didn’t all of those as-I-have-loved-you-love-one-another church lessons, or those after school specials, or that Three Cups of Tea book (wait, he was a fraud), well and nevertheless, didn’t they teach us anything? Leave “Facebook Happy” to some far away land, a land Brandon Mull can create; a world with wizards, thinking zombies, and a world with amazing people, people who can remove a seed from their neck, plant it and be reborn. And if I am making no sense, let me tell you why we need to reach out, be honest, accept ourselves warts and all, throw away the smoke machines, and break the mirrors.
Earlier this week I heard about a woman. This amazing Mormon woman, a woman with a high level of education, had been student body president, an athlete, an active church attender, and also served an LDS Mission, was a friend, a daughter, a sister a wife and a mother, well, earlier this week, this lovely and amazing woman, alone, drove to a park and ended her life.
I did not know her. I knew her brother. I have no idea the kind of unbearable kind of pain and soul-crushing heartache she was in. I cannot judge her. I can only be sad, sad needed to go. Did she feel less than? Was she struggling to keep up? We can make excuses and say she was depressed. Of course she was sad.
She was also our sister, our wife, our mother, our friend, and for some reason it was better for her to leave this world alone then to hang on. I only wish I knew her. Her sudden death has hit me quietly, and has broken my heart. As a sister, daughter, wife, mother and a friend, myself, I think of the spaces those titles fill. She was someone’s daughter. She was someone’s mother, and now she is gone.
As I think of her, I think of the moments when I judge or simply look away. Sure, I know we need to fix ourselves, and that no one can make us happy. We all know that. I would like to think, however, I could be there to hold someone’s hand, especially when their own world seems so dark, and bottom-of-the-ocean like. I hope I could at least hold their hand long enough so they can resurface, and catch their breath. In those dark, scary, and uncomfortable moments, I hope I can remind someone that they are good enough, and completely worth it. I do not know enough about suicide except to say that suicide crosses all socioeconomic ranges, all ages, races and religions. Statistically, there seems to be way too many people who have completely lost hope. According to national statistics, 105 people end their life each day in the United States alone.
Blogs and Facebook be damned, because when the Apocalypse comes (wink wink) the internet will die, including crafty Mormon Women blogs, and with all the surviving cock roaches, and 10 million pounds of unground wheat (remember Mormons have a lot of food storage), I will also take the following, because what we have centered or stuffed inside is what we will always have. I will be grateful. I will be grateful for those moments, especially the moments when I am feeling completely less than. I will be (because I already am) grateful for those breathless, paralyzing moments, when a complete stranger, a Whole Foods cashier, a woman at church, an empathetic park mom, or a dear friend sees me, reaches their hand out, and their heart forward long enough to lift me to safety. Instead of trampling me to get out of the burning plane, or more apt, letting me suffocate, they stop and they help. How cool is that? My guess is that they already had their oxygen mask on, or are very good at holding their breath. Breathe and then lift. And as they wait for me to put my mask on, I am grateful they always stay long enough to hear me breathe. Thank God!