Wonder in 2018 ended up taking a lot of unexpected courage. I didn’t realize that stepping back to really look at my life, searching for beauty, would lead me to want to tear it all down and start over. But that’s what happened.
Late one hot night in July, I sat on the couch I had bought a few months earlier in a proper house that I had helped turn into a home. A few doors away slept a man who I had, until a few months earlier, thought I could reasonably spend the rest of my life with. For many minutes my finger hovered over the send button on a resignation letter that I knew would change the course of my life. I held my breath. I looked around. I wiped tears from my eyes. Screamed silently into my hands. And thought of a poster that used to hang on my boss’s wall in Cedar City. “Ships in harbors are safe.” It read. “But that’s not what ships are built for.”
My life in Phoenix was safe, if not happy. But growing up is all about compromise. Could I really expect to be happy and stable? So maybe the CEO of the school I taught at had threated to fire me for organizing for higher wages. I loved my students, didn’t I? So maybe my boyfriend had told me repeatedly that he wasn’t sure he loved me and didn’t really think I was beautiful. He still had a great job, and we were remodeling the house. So maybe living through summers in Phoenix made me want to crawl in a pit and die of heat exhaustion. At least there were those nice six weeks of Spring each year. I’m great at making the best of things.
But I knew it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t thriving. I wasn’t happy. A couple of weeks earlier I’d found myself on another couch in a therapist’s office sobbing my eyes out. I told her all the ways I felt alone and dissatisfied with my life. What if I didn’t want to marry this man who didn’t love me? What if I never had children? Could I ever be happy alone? Finally she asked, “What does a good life alone look like to you?” Instantly I had a vision, as holy and real as any I’ve experienced in my life. I saw myself looking out a big street-facing window. I knew immediately it was one of the old bungalow homes that surround Salt Lake City. I was bundled up, watching the snow fall, sipping something warm, with a notebook for writing in my lap. A kitty swished its tail nearby. My space. My home. My life. My terms. On my own. Peaceful. Content. Simply filled with love.
I hit send on the letter and within a couple weeks I had packed everything I could fit in my car, like I have so many times before, and drove away from the house and the man. The tears ran out before I left the city limits. The drive north on the 89 was littered with sunflowers, red and green mountains, cloud bursts, rainbows, and wandering streams. In Salt Lake I was welcomed by a new friend to stay for free until I could find work. I began madly putting in job applications, sharpening my interview skills, and considering whole new career options. It was a scary and joyful couple of months of settling in, trying to stay positive, creating a new community and working odd jobs. But by the end of September I was offered a position with a growing company for more money than I had made as a teacher. I was home. And it was wonderful.
Now I sit in my friend’s home, staring out a big beautiful window at the snow in the backyard, with a notebook in my lap. There is a dog outside, so no cat. I’m close. But not quite there. I still need to own it. And in 2019 that’s what I’m going to do. Strap in. This is gonna get real.
Owning my beliefs.
I was raised reciting the motto “Stand for truth and righteousness at all times, and in all things, and in all places.” I like to think that though my understanding of truth and righteousness has shifted dramatically over the last few years, my integrity has never budged. Stepping away from active membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was something I couldn’t have imagined until a few short years ago. Being Mormon has been as much a part of who I am as being a red-headed, left handed woman. Stepping away has been a years-long, excruciating process. It felt like being flayed alive—removing and regrowing a whole new skin. However, under that skin the core of who I am, a person of integrity, remains. Attending church became a painful exercise in cognitive dissonance. I saw the distance grow wider and wider between what the church was doing (like implementing unchristian LGBTQ policies, and excommunicating critical voices) and what I needed in my relationship with God (a stronger connection with a feminine divine, and acceptance of my hard questions regarding history and theology). To not have my new beliefs reflected in the way I lived including who I loved, when and where I shared my time and talents, would have been dishonest to my desires and disingenuous to those around me who assumed I still shared their beliefs. Through this process, I’ve also tried to be very cautious about sharing my new beliefs, especially with those who I love the most, out of fear of making them uncomfortable or hurting our relationship. More than once this year I got in hot water with people I love for expressing myself too freely. It’s terrible to hear pain or anger in the voice of someone you love and to know that you are the cause.
But, also in the last few months, I had two people who have been in my life for many years reach out to me separately and unexpectedly. They both told me they knew I was a safe place because of the things I had said or posted. Both suffer quietly, isolated from their LDS families and communities because they experience same-sex attraction. The faith these dear ones showed in me and the love and support I was able to share with them made all the pain I had endured in my journey worthwhile. Their courage has made me stronger and braver.
Most of you who read this annual blog have known me for many years, just as my brave friends have. Perhaps you are wondering now, “Do I know the person?” Here’s the thing, I promise you do! You do know someone who feels this way. (Maybe even the same person) Consider this: there is someone you know and love who is currently afraid to tell you about something important about who they are; something that they have known about themselves for years. Something just as much a part of who they are as their hair color or their right-handedness. But this person can’t tell you because they are sure it will cause you to love them less. They worry you will look at them with fear, disgust, or pity when all they want is your love, unconditional and unchanging as the love of God. I understand how they feel to some degree because I had all those same fears about letting you know that I’ve stepped away from the church.
The fact that you don’t know anyone who is gay or who is going through a faith crisis has more to do with your words and attitude about gay people and faith crises than it does with who is around you. The same can be said of all suffering. Just because you aren’t seeing it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
This year I’m ready to own all of this. Your feelings are yours. My beliefs are mine. I’m here if you need to talk about your suffering, about wanting to love better, about what you believe. Understand that I will speak my heart and that might hurt, but I will never hurt you intentionally.
Owning my body.
I first went to the therapist’s office because I was feeling deeply insecure about my body. My partner’s insecurities about himself and his self-worth were taking a toll on me. While our intimate relationship had brought me a lot of joy, it had also opened a whole new world of questions and self-doubt for me. While it seemed like everyone I knew was trying Whole 30 and Keto, I invested myself in body positivity, intuitive eating and the Health at every size movement (HAES). While I’ve been working for many years to accept my body for its strengths and limitations, I’d never really considered what it would be like to be proud of my body just as it is. Today, I’m so far away from that goal that it feels like a journey that will last a life time. So far, all that it has led me to is a gym membership, a lot of pants that are too snug, and a healthy rage at media that glorifies thinness above all. I’m always looking for new resources and ideas on how to care for my body-mind-soul connection better. Moving to Salt Lake has done wonders for my mental and spiritual health, but I still have a lot of work to do in finding a healthier relationship with food and my waistline. Currently working on trying to feel beautiful again.
Owning my space.
I need a home of my own. Because, like Virginia Wolf would have said today, “Come on y’all, I’m 35 and it shouldn’t be this hard.”
Let me reiterate how grateful I am to my friend turned wonderful roommate, who has opened her super charming home to me. She has been a lifesaver. I think my being around has been a blessing for her as well during a difficult year. Life is good for us, but I am so ready to have my own kitchen with my own dishes, my own couch with my own pillows, my own bathroom with my very own tub to use all the bath bombs ex-boyfriends have given me. Sure I could rent all that, but I’m over building landlord’s fortunes. I want to paint my walls and plant a garden. One of the lessons from this last year is that home ownership is what sets apart the people who are getting by from those who are building for a future, and anyway rent is the same as a mortgage for the kind of home I want. Will I be able to afford the dream house with the window, the yard, and the cat? The next 6 months will tell. Luckily, I can work all the overtime I want at my new job, and I fully intended to do so. The market isn’t great this year, but I need to live my life now and not on the market’s timeline.
Owning my choices.
Now that I am in the right place and working toward all these things, there are some reckonings that must be made. The scary question that comes into focus as I look over my life and the decisions that have led me to the wonderful, unexpected place where I am is: What am I left with if the one thing I always, always wanted isn’t going to be a reality? What if I am not going to be a mother? I’ve spent the last few years sorting through and trying on the beliefs I was raised in. Some have been discarded (the need for LDS priesthood ordinances), others have been redesigned (my love for ritual and symbol), but some I still hold tightly (like integrity). My desire for motherhood has remained stubbornly planted though I’ve tried setting it down, turning my back, and focusing my attention elsewhere on things like my love for arts, the need for a partner, and career goals. But my mother-heart send me rushing back, picking up the imagined child and holding it closely once again. I ache for it. It brings me to tears even now.
I know that a duel parent home is the ideal for everyone involved when it comes to raising children. I know I don’t have the financial security to go it on my own. I know there is still a possibility that I could meet a great partner and get pregnant and have a kid or two without any serious problem. But boy oh boy does that last one seem unlikely. It has been my choice to not get pregnant for the last 20 years. I’m mostly really grateful for that choice. But I can’t say I’m not envious of all my friends who are mothers, including my single mom friends who I know might struggle with finances and exhaustion everyday. I must own my choice to be childless. But I can also own my choice to look at options.
Right now my top option is to begin the process of making a home for myself and then becoming a licensed foster mother. I joined a Facebook group of single foster mothers and seeing their daily struggles and loves is making it seem real and hard and possible. There is a lot of pain and ugliness in the foster system, but also so much need and joy. I know it would break my heart to see children coming from trauma and also often returning to trauma, but at least I could be a place of respite and rest for them. I would only foster school aged children, since I am lucky to have a pretty flexible work schedule for now. I have a lot of love to give and think this is something that could really fill my heart. But it will take a lot of learning and preparation to find out if this is the path for me.
As for the other option of continuing a traditional path to motherhood- well I’ve decided to give my self the year off from the idea of getting married. Hear ye, Hear ye, Miranda will NOT be getting married in 2019. I’ll continue to pursue relationships as they come my way, but I am determined that for the first time in my adult life it’s ok to draw a line in the sand and say that I’M NOT GETTING MARRIED at least this year, and maybe ever. The old “how soon are you ready to get married and start a family?” question in my first date repartee hasn’t yielded great fruit thus far, so I’m changing it up and saying “I HAVE NO PLANS TO MARRY. Amen.”
And with that, I’m owning this blog post. It’s scary, but I’ll do it anyway. I’m so grateful for the love and support I’ve had from amazing family and friends over my WONDERful year of 2018. I wish peace, joy, and ownership for all of you in 2019.
P.S. Holy crap! We are only one year away from 2020- a year where hopefully all will be made very clear.