I've realized how much I've been changing in the last 5 months since leaving the church. Recognizing the church wasn't good for me was a good start. Then I started blogging and have discovered in myself a real need to have communication with myself and others, something I had been missing yet never recognized or felt the absence of until I suddenly felt the void being filled. I've begun to look at my life and who I really am with open, clear eyes...and there are parts of me that I'd like to change. I'd like to be happier. I'd like to become the woman I know I can be.
A friend of mine had some great advice on finding out who you are:
- Make a list of all the things that make you happy. On the other side of the paper, make a list of all the things that drain you.
- On the list of what makes you happy, put down other activies, actions, movies, hobbies, enjoyments that you might have but aren't sure yet.
- Your purpose of the list is to find out who you are and what you want.
- Continue to do the 'happy' things on the list and you will form a positive identity of who you are and what you want in life.
Happiness has been on my mind because of this list. I want to create one, but have discovered that I have no idea what makes me happy. I am someone who has always deferred to others, doing what they wanted to do, and conformed myself to be what they wanted me to be. I have rarely taken opportunities to reach for and obtain those things that I want, and suddenly I'm discovering that I don't like being that way. It is actually difficult for me to say, "This is what I want, and I will have it."
I could lay blame on others or the Mormon church for perpetuating this mindset. I have always been someone who detests confrontation, and sometimes I find that when I reach for something that makes me happy, I am thrown into confrontation with others who have expectations that are not met when I try something different that makes me happy. I feel like the little kid who reaches into the cookie jar, only to have my hand slapped just as I take the cookie, so I drop it and run crying from the room. I've learned over time not to even try to do some things that make me happy, as the battle and aftereffects negate the happiness I'd have felt if I'd gone for it. This is wrong, I see now. It's not fair to me, or to my kids who see this as an example.
Mormonism is so good at subtly and not-so-subtly giving women the message that we aren't worth much. We have to run every leadership decision that we make through the bishopric for approval. We always take a backseat to the men, from the time we are young. Even the temple sealing ceremony (so I've read) gives the message that women belong to men and must answer to them. Having this message reinforced throughout your entire life that as a woman you are somehow inferior does nothing for a woman like me, who resists confrontation and enjoys pleasing others.
It's something I've got to evaluate now, so I can undo those things that I've done to enable this circumstance in my life. I can lay blame all I want on others and the church, but really, if I'm completely honest, it has been within me all along to either accept or reject this kind of treatment. Now that I can see that, I recognize I've got some serious work to do.
It's not going to be easy.
To begin, here's the start of my list of things that make me happy:
- Reading blogs
- Writing in my blog
- Talking about stuff
- Reading books
- Being with my girlfriends, including my sisters and sisters-in-law, doing things like ladies' nights out, shopping, going to lunch, talking on the phone
So what exactly is happiness? To me, it's being able to just be me, and do what I love doing, without fear and without apology.