If you are a friend of mine on Facebook you’re likely sick to death of me talking about this by now, but if not, some news: I wrote an essay that was published in a real, live, hardcover book! It’s so exciting to me, not only to be published but also to have contributed something to such an amazing cause—Mormon womanhood in the 21st century.
The book is called Fresh Courage Take: New Directions by Mormon Women, and as I read through the final version a few weeks ago (staying up until 3 a.m. to do so), I thought of so many friends and loved ones who would benefit from the 12 essays in the compilation. I truly believe that there is something in it for everyone: woman or not, Mormon or not, anyone. If nothing else, it is an awesome reminder to keep an open mind and try to understand what your friends and neighbours might be struggling with.
So, tonight I had the great pleasure of speaking at the book’s release party at Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City, and now that the party is over I think it’s safe to share what I said there. It should give you a little taste of what my essay is about (I’ve wanted to share that particular essay here for over two years now! I’ll never be able to, since it would infringe on copyright laws, but if you want to read it you can buy the book on Amazon—the Kindle version is only $6! Or wait to check it out from the library. I don’t feel comfortable asking people to spend $20 on a book because it seems a little tacky…plus I was never in this to make money. I only wanted to add my voice to this cool movement.)
So here’s what you missed if you weren’t there in the flesh:
My involvement with this book started several years ago not as a writer but as a proofreader, when my e-friend Jamie Zvirzdin asked me to review a series of essays she’d commissioned for a book on the Mormon woman’s condition. I heartily agreed, and devoured the essays as I got them. I loved them so much that I forgot to proofread as I went—I just read them and cried.
When I did finish proofreading them, I told Jamie that as much as I loved the essays, I was kind of sad that I didn’t get to add my voice to the “quorum” of women she’d collected. But the manuscript was just about ready and I understood. Besides, what would I say? I didn’t have any real topic in mind; I just knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Many months later, one of the authors of the group rescinded her essay for personal reasons, and Jamie emailed me: did I still want to be a part of this?
I didn’t even have to think about it: Yes, I said. Please, yes.
By that time, the spring of 2013, I had become pregnant with my first child, and I was terrified.
See, growing up in a devout Mormon family, it was generally accepted that at some point in life I would get married and begin to reproduce. However, during those pivotal teenage years we all know and love, my life developed in such a way that lead me to dread the idea, not only of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood but of marriage and sex as well.
So there I was, preparing to have a baby despite all earlier misgivings. As I faced the thing I’d molded my identity around swearing I would never do, the topic of my essay became clear to me: I needed to write about how I’d come to create this child—I, who for so many years swore it would never happen. I needed to write about what had changed to make it happen, and what was still holding me back from fully embracing it and loving my life.
I needed to write about it, not just so I could contribute to this book, but so I could sort through my issues and move forward. I felt that if I continued burying my head in the sand, I would deliver my baby and completely check out from reality, probably ending up with a divorce and a social worker and maybe even jail time. It sounds dramatic, but I just didn’t know how I could possibly love that baby, and the knowledge that I would have to pretend to love him (so nobody would think I was a Bad Mother) would drive me mad before long.
So I wrote. I wrote my heart into that essay. I wrote my deepest fears that I hadn’t admitted to anyone; I wrote about decade-old memories I’d buried long before; I wrote of my life the way it had been and the way I pictured it could be, someday, if only I could let go of my deep-seated anxieties and embrace a new mindset.
That new mindset included the following:
* To stop judging myself & release myself from guilt
* To stop judging other women & release them from shaming
* To stop thinking that everyone else is judging me (which is a lot easier to believe when I’m not judging others)
* And to do only the things I want or feel impressed to do, not because anyone else says that I should, but simply because I want or feel impressed to do them.
I can’t say more because I don’t want to give the essay away. However, I will say this: I’m pretty sure it worked. By writing it out, and choosing to believe the words I’d written, I was eventually able to overcome most of my doubts and anxieties—and the ones I couldn’t overcome, I learned to live with in a healthier way.
Now, over two years later, I can say the words my teenage self never believed she would: I am a mother. I am a mother, and I love being a mother. I won’t deny that it is difficult, and that many days the difficulties outweigh the joys. But for me being a mother is more good than bad. So good that I’m doing it again at least once, and am very much looking forward to meeting my second baby in a few months.
Even more important than my life-changing acceptance and appreciation for motherhood, though, is this: that if I hadn’t taken to it quite so well, or if I had chosen never to undertake it in the first place, I would still have merit in the world and in the eyes of my Heavenly Parents.
That knowledge—that freedom—has made all the difference.