Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Judge My Worth By What I Do

I've recently gotten myself into something of a mess. I've said yes to too many projects and am now so swamped I'm about to go crazy. Literally, I don't sleep, I don't have time to eat and I barely see my husband. I'm working full time, stage-managing a show (which is a full time job in and of itself), working as an intern for a non-profit doing communications and creating an index for someone that I've never met's family history. This is on top of the writing I normally do for the Exponent and other blogs. I'm not writing this to say "Look how cool I am!" I'm trying to figure out what motivates me to get into situations like this.

Part of my problem is that I want to feel I'm contributing to society. My job, while a good job, is fairly specific and can't really be said to add to the goodness in society. I catalog books, and while books are great things, putting book information into a libraries system just doesn't cut it for me in the do good for the world department.

The bigger issue though is that if I"m not doing something extra, something different, something useful, I feel like a failure at life. And my idea of is useful is pretty specific. The fact that I'm the person supporting my family financially doesn't feel important enough to me to make me feel like a useful person. I don't know why.

I'm beginning to wonder if my drive to do too much is based in the Mormon idea of earning salvation. In most other Christian traditions, salvation is free to those who accept it. They don't need to earn it through good works or perfection. But in Mormonism, we need to earn our way to heaven, by serving, being worthy, etc. We are only saved after we've done everything we can do. But then, because Mormons claims Christianity, we are also taught that all we do is never going to be good enough, so Christ fills in the rest. But he only fills it in if we do everything we possibly can. This creates a bunch of stressed out Mormons who do a lot of good but feel they haven't earned their way to heaven.

I have no idea if I believe in heaven or the Atonement, but I was brought up to do everything I could do. I wonder if that stuck; if I'm not doing every good thing I can possibly do, then I feel like a failure.

I'm not sure what this has to do with anything; just trying to figure it out.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Why I Won't Leave the Church Alone

People who leave the church are often accused of not leaving the church alone. Church members and leaders act all offended that people are angry at the church, as though they in no way deserve anyone's anger. Here's the problem with that; they church won't leave those who leave alone. So if they get to stick their noses in my life, I get get to stick my nose in theirs. If the church wants people who leave to leave the church alone, they should follow suit.

This breaks down into two issues in my mind. First, there are the church members who won't leave you alone. Second there is the fact that the church has inserted itself into EVERY aspect of your life, and felt justified in doing so. Detangleing yourself from that is an extensive process.

First, the church will not leave people alone. If you haven't been to church for a while, people comment, as though you didn't know you'd missed church and they are providing you with vital information. People who never speak to you at church make a point of telling you haven't been to church and that they missed you. How is that possible if they never speak to you when you are there? Then they send all kinds of people to your house who don't know you, and are frequently only there because they are supposed to. They have never exchanged words with you and will likely never do so after they are released from having to visit you. (Yes, I'm being a bit snide. I actually really like my current visiting teachers, but that was after I requested a change.) Then if they find out you are struggling, the bishop calls you in every couple of weeks and is passively aggressively threatening until you tell him you won't meet with him any more. So if the church can send people in to comment on my life and pass information about it up the food chain, I can comment on what the church does.

This is not my primary point however. The church feels okay inserting itself into every single aspect of my life. It has rules about everything I do and think. It feels it has the right to tell me:
-What I can and cannot eat.
-What I can and cannot drink.
-What I can and cannot wear.
-What I can and cannot wear on Sunday.
-What I can and cannot do on Sunday.
-What I can and cannot watch.
-What I can and cannot read.
-What I can and cannot listen to.
-What jewelry I can and cannot wear.
-What words I can and cannot use.
-Who I can and cannot date and marry.
-Who I can and cannot be friends with.
-What I can and cannot say and write about the church.
-What I can and cannot say about the church in public.
-What jobs I can and cannot take.
-What my role and purpose in life is.
-What I can and cannot do with my husband in private.
-What kinds of birth control I can and cannot use.
-Who, when and how I could date.
-What my family will look like.
-What my priorities should be.
-What I can think about.
-What God I should worship.
-What church I should attend.
-What leaders I should listen to.
-How I spend my money.
-Who I give money to.
-How I spend my time.
-How I might raise my kids.
-What my relationship with my husband should look like.
-What I should study.

There is nothing in my life the church doesn't feel it has a right to make a statement about. For most of my life, I've been following those rules because I was Mormon. But now, I need to figure out which rules I want to keep and which I don't. I never got a second ear piercing because the church said I wasn't supposed to. But now that I'm sorting through what I do and don't believe, I also have to sort through the rules as well. I couldn't think of a good reason for not getting a second piercing, and I wanted one so I got one. I've chosen not to drink at this point, because there are legitamate health and family reasons not to.

But since there is not a single aspect of my life, it's going to take me some time to parse out what rules I still want to follow. And since the church feels justified in inserting itself into every part of my life, I feel just as justified in inserting myself into every aspect of the church. If they don't want me there, maybe they shouldn't be as involved in my life and decisions.