I want people to like me. Like everyone. All the time. Every time I’ve said this to people they laugh, tell me I’m crazy, and tell me I’m going to drive myself crazy trying to do that. The thing is that it has always worked out pretty well for me. I have a pretty good knack for getting along with people. I’m generally good at reading between the lines when it comes to how people are feeling when they are talking, and I can adjust a conversation to keep it headed in a positive direction. I’ve been pretty good at resolving conflicts between friends and having deep, meaningful conversations with perfect strangers. Why? I care about people, and I want people to care about and like me too.
I worry about what my high school seminary teacher might think of my recent political facebooks post. I worry what my gay, exmormon friend will think of my post about my son attending primary at the LDS church. I worry about the friend I’ve talked to a whole 3 times in my life and whether she’ll like me less or more because I have changed since high school. (Writing that paragraph I realize I might should cut back on my Facebook time…)
It’s good to be aware. It’s good to be aware of how my words and actions affect other people and to be careful. So, this isn’t a trait I dislike about myself, but always wanting other people to be happy with me has become a problem. Why? Let me tell you a story.
When we were newlyweds (almost 9 years ago, 😳) I would sing around the house. I had always loved music, and that was a normal thing for me. I don’t think Ricardo had ever lived around someone who sang a lot, let alone sang the same song she had stuck in her head over and over. Long story short, he made some comments that made me feel bad. So I dropped music out of my life almost entirely for almost five years and only sang very quietly, if at all, any time he was around. And honestly, it’s not like he asked me to stop. I just cared so much about how he felt about me that I let an important part of my life go rather than risk doing something he might would make fun of.
Prime example of how people pleasing has become a problem for me.
The bigger problem though is my faith. You see, prior to 2011, if you were to ask me what things were the very most important things to me, I would have said my family was most important, and my religion was second. It was super important to me, and this huge, positive thing in my life which was the basis for all my decisions.
But in August of 2011, the person whose opinion of me mattered very most to me, left my religion and, for perfectly valid reasons, began to hate nearly all beliefs and teachings of Mormonism.
I’ve talked on this blog lots of times about the intellectual issues I developed with Mormonism as I began to research the things that led my husband away from the LdS church and about my positive experiences growing up Mormon, and how these two things began to clash. The question I began to ponder this year is why I have never been able to resolve that dilemma and move forward–why I have stayed stuck on the fence. I realized that it’s because, whichever side I choose, I can no longer keep all the important people in my life happy. If I leave the church, I disappoint the people who gave me life and most of my family and best friends, and if I stay the same Mormon I was, I disappoint the person I chose as my parter for the rest of my life, all the people I had grown close to throughout my faith transition, and everyone who had admired my bravery to step away from a cult 🙂
Not acceptable options.
So knowing a more acceptable option would present itself, I stayed on the fence. I saw how rediculous everything Mormon was and yet I held onto it and kept attending. And I waited months, and then years. I’ve stayed in this state of cognitive dissonance and confusion, because the risk of disappointing people was too great.
Until now. I have looked back at these last five years, and I feel like I have wasted them to some extent. I don’t want to stay on this road, to look back at my life with regrets. I don’t want to regret what I did or didn’t do. I don’t want to regret what I taught or didn’t teach my child. I never realized that while I was so busy trying to to disappoint the world, I was hurting myself. I can’t do that anymore. People are going to respect my choices, or they are not, but I have to do what is best for me.
So after, literally, years spent deliberating about this choice, here goes:
1) This choice is mine. If I sound defensive when you are telling me what I “should” do, think, or believe, it’s because I can’t let other people make this choice for me anymore, because I’m an adult who makes my own choices, and my experiences have been different than yours, so I don’t want you to tell me what to do. I want to make my choice, and I don’t have a lot of patience anymore with people who can’t respect that.
2) I reserve the right to change my mind. I don’t have a crystal ball. Life has thrown me some challenges I couldn’t have foreseen and I reacted in ways I wouldn’t have expected. So I reserve the right to change.
3) I plan to believe in God again. Maybe that sounds awkward, but I have practiced disbelief long enough, that believing wil probably take some practice. Do I know the reasons believing in God doesn’t make sense or is even a morally bad choice? Yes, I do. I just can’t anymore. I get it. I understand. It’s just not me. Atheism doesn’t match the life experiences that have meant the most to me. Do I worry about all of my atheist friends feeling disappointed in my choosing to believe in God? Excessively. And I have to stop that. I, personally, am a better person when I believe in God, and I completely respect your choice if you choose to believe otherwise. I have zero issue with you thinking there is no existence beyond this, or believing in some other type of God than what I am believing in. I am going to believe what has resonated with me, and not surprisingly, that looks pretty Mormon.
4) Most of what I am going to choose to believe will look Mormon. Sorry…and yay!? I know Joseph Smith was kind of a slimeball in certain respects, and the Book of Mormon might should be called the Book of Anachronisms, and…this list is like 500 points long. I totally get why my husband left. Makes total sense. I just can’t. Being Mormon feels right to me. I’lol be trying to embrace it at whatever level I can. That won’t look exactly like it used to, or like it has looked the last 5 years. It will be something that feels true to me now, and it will happen over time.
I struggle with this. I struggle with knowing people will ask how on earth I can believe anything the church teaches knowing the dishonestly in the organization, the pain it had caused and continues to cause people, the misuse of tithing funds, etc. My answer won’t be sufficient to you. My answer is personal–I know those things, but that has not been true to my personal experiences. When I go, I leave wanting to help and serve other people, feeling inspired and motivated, and that is important.
5) Some things I will choose not to believe or embrace. There are so many good ways to live life. People should have every opportunity to live the life that is the most true, genuine, meaningful life they can. If that means you are gay, you get married, and you adopt, you should do that. If that means you and your spouse have an open marriage and additional sexual partners because that is what you both need, you have my support. If that means you never get married or have kids because that’s what was right for you, then good. My beliefs should never limit your ability to live a fullfilling, happy life.
And that’s it really. That’s as much as I’m ready to say. I don’t honestly know how this all will go. But it’s time to stop living my life to please other people, and instead live my life with no regrets, making the moments meaningful.