Saturday, November 6, 2010

Holding onto an Epiphany (Marnie)

I guess the hardest thing about having an epiphany, is remembering the experience and realization long enough to change your behavior and your life. I told you in my last post that I am going to choose to believe I will get married in THIS LIFE. As I’ve continued to go through the ups and downs of daily life, I’ve been constantly praying to hold to this new resolve. Ten years ago believing this wasn’t such a hard thing, but when you hit 40 and are still unmarried, you feel like time has run out and you've lost the game. Sure, I technically could get married but my own developed opinion (and those of society and other single women over 40), gave me pressure to give up the dream and move on because it’s "safer that way."

I blame this conceived reality I had created in my mind for the depression I felt this summer. I’ve been working HARD for the last decade to find a husband, to change inappropriate behaviors and even thoughts about dating and marriage to be READY for marriage. I take full responsibility for not achieving marriage by 30. I was not ready – mentally or physically. I just wasn’t open to it or even ready to play the game. The sad part was I didn’t realize it.

But the last 10 years I have changed and I did work my butt of to make myself more open to others, swallow some huge fears and work on my trust issues. I have put in the time, made some huge strides, and still have not succeeded in the goal.

And somehow turning 40 made me feel like the buzzer had sounded, the game was up, and I had failed. If I hadn’t achieved the goal, I might as well settle in for the next part of my life as an old maid and accept that God must not want me to marry in this life.

WHO MADE THAT UP???? I’m not entirely sure when I got that idea but it’s insane!! There are people 40+ getting married ALL the time! Especially in this day and age. Sure, it’s not like the young folk who seem to have no baggage and fears, so they jump to commitment fast and furious every 20 minutes, but in my own realm of friends and acquaintances I have seen multiple individuals marry after 40. And personally I think more WOULD marry if we didn’t focus on the negativity and give up once we reach that age.

I realize my biological clock is running down and my chance for a perfect family with 4 kids as I dreamed about as a teenager in Young Woman’s is pretty much shot to oblivion. We all have to come to terms with the loss of those dreams - whatever they entailed. But is that all I want?? that perfect world? Or can I handle a different kind of existence I never planned for or dreamed of that STILL involves marriage?

I’ve thought long and hard over this and I realized that I had to mourn for the loss of a dream of being married and starting a family by age 40. It’s something I think every single woman and man over 40 has to do. That "40" number decides a passage of time and you can’t stop time. But why do we have to GIVE UP? Why do we have to start saying “I hope to get married but I realize it will probably be in the next life?” That’s a load of lies!! Lies started by Satan to discourage an already discouraged group of people. It’s like kicking us when we are down and we are letting him do it with our permission!

I was talking to some old missionary companions who are also 40 and single about some of our relationships and breakups. Both of them told me - through tears - that they had come to terms with the fact that they won’t get married in this life. It SOUNDS like they are accepting God’s will, but personally it sounds like defeat and giving up all faith! Because the next life is a “sure thing” and it doesn’t take much faith to believe that all is possible in heaven. Even the biggest "non-believer" talks about Heaven being wonderful.

I am ALL about accepting God’s will, but I don’t think he wants us to give up and just exist. I don’t think that attitude attracts men or even other people. It’s just sad and lonely. Why would God want us to say that at all?? Basically we are deciding that God won’t grant us a blessing by a certain age and telling him what he is going to do. From my experience that never works nor do I get what I really desire. It’s a lack of faith – no matter the intentions of the person saying it. And I am VERY guilty of saying that in the past.

I’ve told you in my last post that I can’t live my life and be happy by believing marriage is for me only after I die. I won’t do it. It makes me bitter and feel more lonely than I’ve ever felt. I feel like a failure and I start to question God’s love for me in wondering why I didn’t get to be “lucky” like so many of my friends did. Those feelings come quick and naturally but they are wrong. That’s why I am continuing to declare that I BELIEVE I will marry in THIS life!

When I declared this to my missionary companions, they were surprised and I think a little worried for me. They’ve got their escape plan if it doesn’t happen and I don’t have one if it doesn’t come to pass. One may even think I’m commanding God but that isn’t true. I will get married. That is a promise given to me in my patriarchal blessing predicated on my faithfulness and obedience. What I don’t know is "when." The “when” is what I have to come to terms with and accept his will. And until God comes down and breaks the bad news to me in person or through revelation, I won't believe it. Even if I don’t get married in this life, God wants me to act and believe that I will. Isn’t that how we show faith? Isn’t that one of the reasons we are on this earth? To show we believe in the hard things that society and others ridicule us for believing?

I know it’s tough to keep the faith alive. I’ve had my moments in the last few weeks where after a conversation about the frustrations of dating and hearing a friend’s story about another non-committal man has left me with despair and wondering how in the world will it ever work out. But I’ve had to decide each time to just believe and act accordingly. Miracles happen. I’ve seen too many of them to not believe in them. You can’t rely on logic and believe. That isn’t faith instead it’s believing in the “arm of the flesh.” It has to be complete and total faith in God.

So I will continue my resolve to hope and dream for the NEAR future and not the one after I'm dead. I challenge all of you – no matter your situation or age - to believe and not give up! I know God does not punish those that have faith and trust in him especially those that continue to accept his will for them. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done and there have already been days that I haven't had the strength to say it with any sort of conviction. But I will continue to act according to those beliefs - even through the tears and frustrations. I know it will bring me the most happiness.

I may end up being a 90 year old, single woman, but I will be a 90 year old, single woman who is looking forward to her next blind date and believes she will get married before she dies. Many may call me crazy, but I just call it faith.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reaction to My Last Post (Stella Skywalker)

After my last blog post I had some interesting comments and perspectives and that got me thinking about how easy it is to misinterpret others ideas or put our own special filter on things going on around us. When I made mention of the fine brother that I met I cited that he was an RM. Many responses reminded me how many good and wonderful men there are in the world who are not RM's and I would be missing out greatly if I discounted them. I completely agree and that's what got me thinking...I didn't grow up in the church, I have zero connections to Utah, I have no pioneer relatives and my particular lens is definitely shaped by this. I did not grow up dreaming of my plain, white, Temple ready wedding gown (with sleeves of course) while I stood by my handsome RM prince who was going to carry me off into the sunset and provide me with my very own white picket fence and 5 children. While this has in some sense become my dream over the years I grew up with the mindset that I would get married and have a family but I was also going to get an education, have a career, and travel the world and then when I was ready I would simply select my mate of choice from the conveyor belt of men going by.

Funny - things haven't quite worked out that way. While I have been richly blessed in areas that I can control (my education for example) when I finally realized that the husband hunt was going to be a bit harder then I realized and that Heavenly Father wasn't just going to plop HIM in front of me I had one foot out the YSA door and a host of fears starting to hit my mind and heart. Sometimes I wonder if not being raised in the church and having some clue of our dating culture was a detriment. I joined the church shortly before my freshman year of college. I didn't go to BYU (but as every good Mormon does at some point) figured I had better live my obligatory time on our home planet.

I spent most of those 2 Utah years having fun but definitely not pursuing marriage. I was waiting for my (yes these are real criteria) 6'4" dark hair, blue eyes, preppy boy with straight teeth, future MD, has a car and a clean apartment, will open every door for me, compliment me, bring me flowers, have no opinions unless they are just like mine, will appreciate every single thing I ever say or do, will never see a single flaw in me...I'd go on but the list just gets embarrassing from here.

When my roommate got married in December of our freshman year after knowing her sweetheart for a month I was truly baffled. I was still scared of boys and couldn't kiss one much less marry him. I didn't question her decision or wonder why she was giving up her life - I just wondered how she did it so fast. Life continued on, I returned to my home state for my junior year and became actively involved in my institute and YSA ward. I continued to wait for the boy I dreamed of to fall out of the sky while simultaneously being terrified that he just might. I can look back now and see how hard I was on the men in my life. It didn't take much to unimpress me and since I was so driven I assumed they should be too. I had no patience whatsoever for those who still lived at home or weren't in school pursuing their dreams. I progressed forward, finishing my degree, beginning my career and achieving those world travel dreams. I continued to wait for someone to notice just how awesome I was and to take those manly first steps to begin our courtship. I waited...and I waited....and waited some more. Then 30 came and went and I joined my local family ward where I experienced pain, depression and despair in such depth I thought it would kill me sometimes.

As a mental health professional I have analyzed all of this to death. Up one side, down the other, and yes of course there are many things I could have done differently, there are lots of presumed reasons why and untold missed opportunities. But these are also regrets and I refuse to live my life with regrets. I sit here today and remind myself that while I did not have the same perspective 20 years ago that I have today I was where I was. That is to say, I was who I was. I operating with the knowledge and understanding that I had and though I can now look back and wonder if things had been different if only I had done this one thing, the truth is my life is how it's supposed to be. My journey has always been my journey. The Lord knew me before I knew me. He knew my path before my feet even touched it. He knew it would take me ___ years to figure out all that I personally needed to know so that I could fulfill my calling on this earth. He knew that I was never going to be that 18 year old girl in the boring (sorry - but have you seen some of those gowns!) white gown staring up at her RM dreaming of their babies and little starter apartment. He knew that it would take me much longer to figure out how to be the wife, mother, and woman that He NEEDS me to be and that without my experiences and yes, even the knife sharp pain that those experiences bring, I wouldn't be ready.

I think back to my 20 year old criteria and just laugh. Here's what I want today 6'4" (I just can't let this one go), loves God, loves Jesus Christ, loves ME, puts his best into everything he does, and is honest and loyal in all he does. That's it. I no longer care what he does for a living, what accomplishments he has racked up, what letters are behind his name, or any of those other superfluous things that life can give and take away just as quickly. One thing I've learned over the last few years - if we have anything of value it's who we are. Our things, our achievements and accomplishments, our jobs and titles can be removed in an instance. Serving a mission doesn't make you perfect, being a member of the church is no guarantee that life will fall perfectly into our cultural 'box', and perhaps most importantly...just like the men we long and search for - there are pretty temple ready gowns out there if you are willing to look in unusual places.