Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Faith and Doubts and Authenticity

I went for a run this evening, in the rain, which is sort of the most magical experience you can have, almost, probably.  You know what I mean.

And I felt good, my body and me, we were on the same page for the first time in - I don't even know how to calculate how long.  I keep thinking that I won't know what to do with myself next summer, because for the past 8 solid years every single summer I have either been pregnant or had a newborn, and next summer it's just going to be me.  (I mean, you know, who knows?) Sure, I'll have four little monkeys running around and through, but my body will be mine.

There I am, running, and thinking about what a great thing this body of mine really is, how good it feels to move and a song by Imagine Dragons came up, the one called "It's Time".  A couple lines caught my attention.  "I'm just the same as I was, now don't you understand, that I'm never changing who I am."

The thing is, a person's ability to change is sort of like the mantra of my life.  I have made many changes throughout my life as I have tried hard to overcome the crippling shyness of my childhood and the social awkwardness of my teens.  I have to acknowledge that people can, and do, change.

The trick is, though, that I have always thought that I was in complete control of how and when I changed.  I arrogantly believed that I chose how and where I changed who I am.  But as I was running, and listening to that song, I saw two sides of this coin.

On the one hand, there are some changes that we can choose to make, there are some that we do not choose - they are dictated by our circumstances and experiences.   I always proclaimed that I would be the same parent to all my children, but I see now that it is flat out impossible. I simply cannot, no matter how much I would like to, be the same parent to Hazel that I was to Hallie.  I have three other kids now pulling on me in every direction that I did not have when Hallie was a baby. And sure, sure I could absolutely ignore the other three and give all my focus and attention to Hazel in the same way that Hallie had, but if you were to go back six years and insert three kids, then the me that I was then would NOT have ignored those other children, so even ignoring them is a change from the person I was then.  Do you see what I'm saying here?  It's simply not possible for me to be the same person to Hazel that I was to Hallie.

That said, what I really felt most strongly inside as I was running is that I am still me.  That the soul inside my body, the voice in my head that thinks my thoughts, and the heart beating inside me that loves the people I love, that is still the same.  Perhaps I am dressing that soul differently these days, on superficial levels like the fact that for the first time in 30 years I am eating olives, and I like them.  Not only do I eat them, I willingly put them in my food.  There are changes on deeper levels as well, the levels that are harder to explore and explain, but are felt down in the core of a person.  It seems to me that my personality, the way I laugh, the stories I choose to tell, the clothes I choose to wear, the music I listen to, the manner in which I choose to worship - those are the varied adornments I use to cover my soul, to showcase it to the world.  No matter how I dress it though, that soul that lives inside me is me.  It is me, mine, myself.  I own it, and I own the choices it makes.

I guess the key to owning ourselves as we change is to remember that even if we change the covering with which we present ourselves, we carry inside the self we are trying to leave behind.  We change, but we do not change.

I like to have pretty fingernails and sometimes even put on makeup.  Not only that, but I wear clothes that fit me and are made for women, instead of borrowing the clothes from my older brother;s closet. As I am doing those things and thinking about being "pretty", I actually do sometimes nod my head to the mirror, in acknowledgment to the 14 year old girl who is dying inside because "pretty" was anathema to her.  I am me, and she is the me I was, and we are all here together.

Over the past year or so I have started reading some blogs that are written by people who are discontented with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  They talk often about authenticity, and living with integrity, and being true to who they really are.  I read these blogs mostly in hopes of gaining a better understanding for the family and friends I have that have left the church.  My heart aches for them as I read about the pain they feel, the sorrow and disappointment in what in many cases they still feel is their faith, their gospel, even though they no longer worship in the same formal way.  I thought about myself, and the changes I have made throughout my life in who I am, and the authenticity with which I live my life.  That olives or no olives, I am still me, myself, mine.  And these people who write these blogs, and my own friends and family members that I am trying to understand - they are merely trying to find that same ownership over themselves.

As I ran through the rain, I thought, Do I love these people less because they have left their faith, my faith?  No, of course not. 

Then I thought, Do I love them more? And yes, I think I do.

Not in all cases, but some of the individuals I know that have left the church have opened themselves up to explain why they have done so.  In doing so, they have allowed others, myself, to see their pain and anguish.  When someone opens their soul up so fully, and you see what they feel so clearly, how can you not love them more? 

Do I wish that they had found a way to stay in the church and be happy? Of course I do, or I would not believe in that faith myself. 

Am I going to distance myself from them, because they have left? Of course not.

I have many friends of other faiths, and people who have no proclaimed faith.  If I can be friends with them who never came close to touching the Mormon church, of course I can be friends with people who have left the church.  I hope to be there for the laughs and the good times in the future.  I hope I can provide a comforting shoulder in the sad times, and I hope that if it is possible, when it is time for them to leave this life, many, many, many years from now, that I will be there to give them one last hug and to say goodbye.

I hope that I will be able to go to the funeral, and visit the grave.  I hope that I will be able to leave flowers and comfort their other loved ones.  I don't know where those people will go after they pass away, but I'm not worried about it.  I will leave it to God to take care of that part, and I will just focus on being a friend in this life.

Because my friends if there is one thing I know about your true, authentic soul, it is that it is beautiful.  My friends inside the church and out, lifelong members and those who have walked away, you are good and kind and loving and strong and that is what is important to me in this life.


  1. Beautiful post, Amy! I appreciated how you put so much of this. I've opened up to several friends and, invariably, after telling them specific ways that I am healthier and happier now, out of the church, than I ever was in it they will say something to the effect of, "well, I'm glad you're happy but I know the church/gospel is right for everyone...". And just as I was starting to hope that maybe they could see and understand, they invalidate my entire experience. And that hurts. I was bracing myself for a similar experience when I started reading this. But it wasn't at all, and I appreciate that so, so much. If my other friends had just been able to say, "I wish there were a way you could stay and be happy" I would feel so much better about having opened up to them.

  2. Okay, that was a beautiful post. I love you, and I am so grateful to have sister who is as empathetic as you.

    On another note, have you read the whole Ender series? Part of what you wrote made me think of one of the main themes behind the Speaker of the Dead following.

    This is from Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: "In the moment when I truly understand [someone] . . . then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves."

  3. I read it! Beautiful thoughts! I feel exactly the same way about those who are still Mormons. I love them more now, for many reasons, one of those being that I know they are often hiding their trials and doubts so they can smile at church and present a perfectly coiffed life. I am not so naive to think that anyone really has it all together and lives blissfully without trial. Hardship has many forms.
    Also- ima be ina tree, not a grave. (Death seeds where your ashes are used to fertilize new life and your matter becomes part of it) - Peter

  4. You can come visit my tree anytime. - Peter

  5. Well written. Thank you. Melissa S.

  6. Omg, Peter, I want to turn into a tree when I die too!! I told my parents I want to be planted near them, my grandparents and my sister!
    Also, Ames, I have to say that I always thought you were gorgeous and amazing as a teenager (obviously I still think you are, but I think you can see it in your self now too). I wish I had known you felt like that, because I would have tried to help you see yourself as I saw you. - Emily G

  7. Love you, Amy. - Melissa O

  8. beautiful i love that i have so many open and loving people in my family xoxo - Susi

  9. And this makes me love you more. - Sam N.

  10. That was beautiful! Thank you for sharing. - Melissa T.

  11. I love you too - Mom