So, this post is going to be a bit more personal. Well, all of my posts are personal, as they are all my testimony and what I believe. This post comes many years in the making and I am sure there are many more years to go in order to understand what I am about to share. I have struggled with anxiety and panic for a little over 8 years. I know now that my anxiety has to do with the fact that I do not feel worthy of love. I am afraid that others will see me and decide that I am not worth their time or effort. I have even believed that I wasn't even worthy of God's love and acceptance. I have had to forgive myself for many things, and I am still learning to forgive myself daily. I have been reading a book, which I firmly think everyone should read. It is called, "The Gifts of Imperfection". It is written by Brene Brown, who is a shame researcher. In reading this book, I have seen how shame can be an extremely big motivator for many of us. What I had to ask myself was, “Why is shame such a motivating tool?" During this time, I was dealing with my children's life experiences. My daughter was told to write a note to me, telling me that if she did not turn in money to the school (which she had already done) that the other kids in the class would not be able to get their rewards. This was not something that I would necessarily recognize as shaming, but because I was reading the book, I was able to see. To belittle a child in front of the class and to make her feel as if it is their fault that nobody else is receiving something, is extremely shaming and damaging. The teacher probably didn't know that that was what he was doing. For many parents, educators and employers, shame is the only way to get someone to do what you want them to do. It is also a good motivator in many religions. My oldest daughter is in the Young Women’s program at church. She came to me a while back and was struggling with going to church and even following the Young Women’s program. So, for those of you who don’t know, the YW program consists of marking off a bunch of goals, in order to get, by the end of the program, a Womanhood of Recognition Award. What I was told, when I was attending the Young Woman program was that if I completed the requirements and received my Womanhood of Recognition Award that I would be better able to be a good mom, wife and homemaker. My daughter came to me frustrated, because she didn’t want to be pushed into doing something, just to get an award. She wanted to do it to grow her own testimony, but not because she wanted anything out of it. I was surprised to hear what she had to say, as I hadn’t talked to her about my feelings about it at all. I explained the expectations that this program placed on her and why. I also gave her the choice to decide for herself, what she felt she needed to do. The Young Woman’s program of the LDS church, is just one example of a program that has the potential to cause shame. The missionary program has the potential to be a shaming experience for many young men and later to the women. A cultural norm, not a commandment. A young man who decides to not go on a mission, or cannot due to various reasons, gets completely shamed within the LDS community. Young women tend to avoid dating men that have not gone on missions and leaders of the church are hesitant to call men who have not gone on missions to higher callings. There are many other programs that I could add to this. The Relief Society is a huge contributor to shame within the Mormon community. Have you heard of Molly Mormon? The do it all, self-sacrificing, woman who does not look to her needs, but always looks to the needs of others. Her house is spotless, her children reverent and wholesome, and everyone eats organic. She cooks meals for the needy and does her visiting teaching faithfully. She is the picture of perfection. How does someone feel when they cannot fulfill, what is supposed to be, the thing that brings them closer to Christ? There is no way for us to meet everyone's expectations, and that is what reading about shame made me realize. If there were no expectations, then we would not have to feel shamed when we don't do something just right. What if all we did was follow the will of God? We know that we will always be enough for Him and the things that He asks of us. A thought to ponder.
I put expectations on myself, I have expectations placed on me from my husband, my kids, my parents, my siblings, my friends and all of society. We cannot escape the expectations of others. If we work for an employer we will have expectations. If our children go to school, they will also have expectations, meaning we will have expectations placed on us. We place expectations on ourselves all the time. We need to be thinner, we need to be more patient, kinder, smarter, and faster, make more money, be more powerful, we need to spend more, and have more. Many of us feel that we won't be enough until we attain these things, therefore, waiting to experience full joy and peace until we attain them. I recognized this in my own life. I hope my husband doesn't mind me sharing, but we got into an argument. The truth is, due to my anxiety, I have a hard time driving to where I need to go. We live 30 min. from town and we have to drive over a mountain pass to get there. I tend to not make plans, unless I know that my husband can take time off of work or it is after work hours and he can drive me. He has been very patient in the process. I have tried to make it as comfortable as possible, but sometimes it cannot be managed. This time something came up that was important to me, but not necessarily important to him. I felt rejected and alone. I felt like what I needed wasn't valuable, therefore making me invaluable as well. This isn't true, but this is the way I felt. I knew that my husband wasn’t required to do this, but we had an “agreement”. This was the way we would make things work. Unfortunately, because of where we live and the lack of resources, he has been my only support and resource. I have 7 children and when I make an appointment for 1, I have to take them all in. He is usually my chauffer, my babysitter and the only adult I get to talk to in a day sometimes. He has been extremely patient, but this particular week, we were both feeling the stress of the anxiety and panic. He was feeling trapped by the anxiety and so was I. Every time that I would get upset over this, the thought would come to me that it wasn’t his responsibility and if I just had more faith, then I could drive myself. This was difficult for me. I wanted someone to blame, but deep down inside, there was no one to blame except me. I continued reading in the book during this time. While it was extremely difficult, I came to the realization, that my husband wasn’t happy and I wasn’t happy. He had felt trapped by my weakness, just like I did, but he didn’t need to. There was a part of the book that talked about boundaries and how important it is to set boundaries, in order to become more compassionate. Well, for a while now, I had not been feeling a lot of compassion from my husband for the struggle that I was going through, and why would he, he felt trapped by it. I was starting to wake up. I was starting to see what the underlying factor was. To top it all off, I had been struggling with living where we were. I had been feeling like if we could just move, then I would drive more, I could take care of my responsibilities better and depend less on my husband, win-win. Unfortunately, God had different plans. It was just not working out to move. I received a blessing from my husband and was told from God, that I needed to let the idea of moving go, that if we were to move, he would let us know. He wanted me to live in the present and enjoy my time with my children. The whole time I am saying to myself, like a little 3 year old, “But I don’t want to let it go.” Not funny at the time, but a little silly now. Afterwards, I felt the prompting from God, telling me that those who lose their lives for His sake, will find them. For those of you who don’t know me, I am extremely lousy at farm life. I am more of a city person. I love people, I love being around people, I love theater, arts, singing, and dancing. Since living here for almost 3 years, I have told people this is my hell. I feel like a failure every day of my life. I can’t get this whole type of living down. I also know that there would be many who would love to trade places with me. I know, I am extremely blessed, but because of my weaknesses, this has literally been my perfect storm. Needless to say, there were a lot of steps to my AHA! moment. Many painful moments that left me feeling extremely vulnerable and alone. I decided to lift all of my expectations from my husband. This was extremely painful for me, as I was picturing in my mind, someone who finally felt free, running off in the distance yelling Hallelujah!!!! That would be what I would do if I could rid myself of what is trapping me. Because he is literally my best friend and in many ways, the only one I can talk to about everything, I felt completely alone. Would he still stay? Would he still want to be with me, if I let go of all of my expectations that keep him sticking around? Would he love me still? Wow, what questions to ask. It seems silly, but the feelings are real. Then as I spoke to him about what I was going to do, I recognized some expectations that he had placed on me. I realized, not only do I get to free him from the expectations, but I get to free myself of the expectations. HALLELUJAH!!!!! The next day I prayed to my Father in Heaven. I usually write down my prayers, as this gives me more ability to concentrate on my prayers and write down the thoughts and feelings of inspiration that I have. I was telling God, that I was letting go of expectations, that I was scared about where this would lead and that I needed His help to let me know where I was putting expectations. I asked him if the pain was worth it. He didn’t answer my question. I started asking for forgiveness for being angry with Him and that I was thankful for everything He did for me. Then a light bulb came on in my head. What expectations was I putting on God? I realized that I expected Him to provide everything I needed. I expected Him to give me health. I expected Him to sustain me from day to day with breath. Oh my gosh! How silly of me. Here was I, this puny human, thinking that I had some kind of right to receive what I had been receiving from Him. I then told God that I took all expectations off of Him. I would no longer expect Him to provide everything I needed, or give me breath from day to day. This is an extremely scary place to be in. This is the epitome of free agency. I have given all of those in my life the agency to move and function in the way they need to, without my feelings of anger or resentment. I have also given myself the freedom to say no, without feeling guilty or shamed for not being able to be everything for everyone. Heavenly Father loves me just the way I am, with all of my weaknesses and sins. I am enough for all of the tasks He has set before me.
So, now that I have removed, or am trying to remove all expectations from everyone in my life, what does my life look like? Well, I just started, but I can already see the peace that can come into a home where the expectations are not there. My husband is more desirous to talk, not because he has to, but because he wants to, and I can be more grateful for the time that he spends with me, because I know he doesn’t have to. I have been moved from a place of being let down, to a place of gratitude for all that my Father does for me. What do I hope it will look like, when I am done with this? Well, I hope it looks like a woman walking in total harmony with the earth. I told my husband that I could totally see myself becoming the next Buddha, being grateful for all of life, because all of life and what comes into my life will come as a blessing and not because I expected it to. It looks like someone who recognizes that they are loved, because she can welcome everyone that comes into her circle as a gift. I recognize that even though I am not the type of mother that I so desired to be when I was a young woman, because of my weaknesses, that I can still enjoy being a mother to my sweet children. I am slowly letting go of the expectations that I have placed on myself. I am excited to see where this goes. I can see it in the distance. The peace that I have been desiring is within reach. I am grateful for what Father has been teaching me. Is this how Zion will be built? I don’t know, but it feels really good, to know that God doesn’t have any expectations on us either. The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked. He gives us everything, no matter how good or bad we are. He would love for all of us to return to Him, but it is not an expectation. Let us move in a place of gratitude for all things that are in our life. Maybe as we move from a place of expectation to a place of gratitude, we can see all of the blessings in our lives and the way God is moving us to receive all that He has. May you all be abundantly blessed and thank you for reading. I know you don’t have to.