Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When Tragedy Becomes Personal

On December 14, 2012 an elementary school in Connecticut was attacked viciously and lives were changed forever.  On December 14, 2012 everybody seemed to have a theory on how this might have been prevented.  On December 14, 2012 global awareness was raised on a number of subjects.  On December 14, 2012 I was at work and only heard tidbits of information as customers mentioned what had happened, what had been reported, and chimed in with their own theories.  In the following days more rhetoric was spewed and posts abounded on Facebook. News stories continued to report versions of the truth.  In church that following Sunday we were informed that one of the victims was a member of the LDS Church and that the father had made a statement.  The sister teaching Relief Society had known the parents of that child individually prior to them having been married and creating a family.  And in the end I found myself turned off by it all.  I don't want to sound heartless but it was like overload of information and none of it pertained to me.

Yesterday I had to work again.  Merry Christmas to me.  It was a slow morning as most families were snuggled in their warm houses and we only had the few stragglers who had forgotten to get milk or cigarettes or booze.  My co-worker was looking through the People magazine in an effort to amuse himself.  When he went out for his smoke break I glanced over at the magazine to see if there was anything of worth.  The front cover was a dedication to the lives lost on December 14, 2012.  Inside was the personal stories of families who went searching for their children amidst the chaos.  Personal tributes of those who had known the teachers and administrators who had been attacked for no apparent reason.  And I had to stop reading because my heart hurt so much and I didn't want to be caught crying. 

I don't know any of these people any more now than I did on the day the tragedy occurred, but I realized that in a way I do.  You see, I have a 6 almost 7 year old daughter who lights up my life with her giggles, her smiles, her way of seeing the world.  She is my youngest child and often my favorite.  I have been blessed to spend many days at her school along with two of her siblings and their many classmates.  I cannot walk on that campus without somebody waving hello, calling my name, or knocking me over with an enthusiastic hug.  And while I do not personally know Ms. Soto who gave her life in an effort to protect her students, I do know Ms. Martin and Ms. Gladden and Ms. Virgil and Ms. Salmins and many more wonderful teachers who would have valiantly responded in kind if it were their classroom under attack.

I also have two teen-aged sons who I worry about constantly.  I have learned that I am unable to control their actions - they are too much like me for that to ever happen.  But I do spend many moments in serious conversation with them, in deep reflection on my own, as I try my best to instill in them a confidence in themselves, a respect for others (even those they do not particularly want to respect), and a belief in gospel principles, all of which will hopefully guide them in their decisions.  And I couldn't help but be grateful that the gunman took his mother's life before he went to the school.  Because I can only imagine the questions she would be facing if she had lived to know of her son's destruction of others' lives.  What did I do wrong? Where did I fail him? What could I have done differently?  And she never would have received any answers that would assauge her guilt because he was her son and that's a responsibility no mother takes lightly.

I truly hope I never have to find out personally what the families left behind are now facing each and every day that they must go forward without their loved one.  But even though the tragedy happened in an obscure location I'd never heard of and probably will never visit, my heart goes out to those families and yesterday I cried for them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Believing in Me

It's been awhile. Two years actually since I have blogged anything.  I do not use gmail as a regular email so I was lucky to remember my password.  I was lucky to remember my actual address name.  Google wanted me to update and upgrade and I wasn't sure how long the process would be to actually get to the blogging part.  To my relief, I made it to this point rather quickly and painlessly.  It was also a bit of a relief to realize that I am not the only one who has been remiss in keeping the blog-fire going.

In the past two years we have seen many things change and many more stay the same.  Mostly I have discovered that I am still a work in progress.  I turned 43 this year.  I thought that at this point in my life I would have most things figured out.  I would have grown up, chosen a career, raised my family, and become a stalwart member of society.  Instead I began questioning everything I thought I believed. 

I believed that I needed to be married and have children to be a fulfilled woman.  I believed that if I married in the temple, I would eventually have a happy ever after ending. I believed that if I paid tithing, I would have no financial woes. I believed that being a stay-at-home-mom was a higher career calling than any job that took me outside of the home. I believed that if I raised my children in the church, they would never stray. 

I learned that I'm not good at marriage and many days I resent at least one of my children and usually just resent that I have as many as I do.  I learned that being a parent is the hardest job I have ever had. I learned that I don't know how to be selfish and that my children will always come first even when I would rather they didn't. I learned that I love my children but that being a mom is not fulfilling in and of itself.  I learned that being married takes a lot of work and sacrifice. I learned that I am more willing to sacrifice myself for my children than I am for my marriage.

I learned that temple marriages don't guarantee anything.  I have issues with being eternally sealed to a man that I'm not always sure I want to spend tomorrow with. I discovered that I am attracted to many men for many reasons and marriage gets in the way of exploring those relationships. I have learned that happy ever after belongs in fairy tales.

I learned that after faithfully paying my tithing for years, there were no guarantees for financial peace.  I'm not even asking to be rich.  I would love to win the lottery, but not for selfish purposes.  I learned that my parents ingrained in me a very solid sense of accountability and responsibility. Losing the house was more an issue of being unable to fulfill an obligation rather the loss of property.  Finding out that our first landlord wasn't paying his mortgage was a disappointment but I held onto the belief that we would be okay since we'd been paying our tithing.  I learned I am a very prideful person and it made no sense to me to pay tithing only to go back to the church to ask for financial help.  It seemed to make more sense to use the tithing money to pay the bills rather than play give and take with the church.  I'm still trying to figure out the whole tithing commandment as I want to be a good steward of the Lord, yet how can I be a good steward if I have to keep going to the church for help?

I miss being a stay-at-home-mom.  But I love my jobs.  I miss the graveyard shift because it allowed me to still be in the school with my children. I loved going on field trips even if it meant lacking sleep.  I loved hanging out with my kids and being part of a school community. But getting off the graveyard schedule meant a raise in pay with a promotion and more time with my husband.  We had become roommates who were on opposite schedules trying to make ends meet more than our lives. I learned that it was harder to be married to him now that our schedules were meshing. It had been easy to use the obvious excuses of no time, too tired, different schedules to explain our lack of intimacy. Now we had to address the elephant in the room. We weren't partners in a marriage and family and we had to seek outside help to figure out if we even wanted to still be together.  Some days I'm still not sure.  I have learned that I need more than wifedom and mommyhood to feel fulfilled. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but I am enjoying the process of figuring it out.

My biggest skew in belief has been with the church.  I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It is all I have ever known.  The parts I didn't understand I just accepted on faith.  Yet there have always been aspects that gnaw at me.  I didn't want to be a bad Mormon, a bad wife, a bad mom, so I shoved them down below the surface where I didn't have to think about them.  Having an intelligent teen-aged son has changed that.  He is not satisfied with taking things on faith and I have learned that I am not either.  He has given me courage to ask questions and not accept the standard line of "taking it on faith" or "in the Lord's time" when there are not satisfactory answers to the questions.  I have learned that I can have a relationship with my Heavenly Father that only I understand.  I have learned that there is a difference between the Gospel Doctrines and church tenets. I still believe that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me, and I love Him.  I have learned that I am a generous, loving woman and that not understanding all the facets of charity does not preclude me from being charitable.  I have learned that I am still a work in progress and that my goal is to be better tomorrow than I was today.