LAURA: Ten years. Almost one third of my life. I’m not old enough to have a marriage 10 years old. Except I guess I am.
We, or rather I, had grand plans for this 10th anniversary. However life got in the way, a fact that I find hilariously ironic considering that marriage got in the way of my life. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I only mean that I didn’t want to get married and have children, especially not right away. I had incredible, adventurous, and powerful life plans.
But… marriage and children was the story God wanted me to live.
So said my seminary teacher when he suggested to me that giving up my career for marriage and children was righteous and the way to protect my eternal inheritance. So said my mother every time we watched Oprah together and she criticized the guests who were working mothers. So said every church leader I ever had, even the employed women.
And when the opportunity presented itself to follow God by following the script, I set aside my life and obeyed.
Now, after 10 years, I look at the script I was given and I’m sad. Sad for the bright young woman who was only given one choice. Who could have, and probably should have, done “more” with her life than comply and conform.
I’m also a little angry. The night I told my parents we were engaged, my mom asked me what we were going to do to make that work. As in, how we would support ourselves? The question confused me then, and that she asked it still confuses me, because I was never taught to consider the logistical implications of marriage.
I wish that had been part of the script I was given.
When I told my branch president, he asked me if perhaps I was getting married because my younger sister was going to be engaged soon. Perhaps, he suggested, there was some sense of competition there and that I needed to get married before she did. My relationship with my fiance developed quite quickly and I was young. But like my mom, he had never given me any other path to follow.
For 20 years of my life, this was the only God-approved script I knew. When the time came to follow it, I think both my mom and my priesthood leader were trying to give me another option, but it was far too late, and they had already participated in creating a one-option reality for me.
It has not been all bad, however. Far from. I have created a full and beautiful life with a good man by my side. We have healed ourselves – and at times healed each other – from the damage that rigid fundamentalism does.
To wish my life was different would require me to wish away all the good things. I would have to wish away all the hard but beautiful lessons. I would have to wish away my two little girls, who are certainly not the sum of my marriage, but wouldn’t exist without it.
That possible other life (that I actually believe another version of me somewhere in the universe is probably living) is both seductive and devastating.
The bitterness is real, tonight as it has been many times in the last ten years. Yet so is the joy.
And I suppose in many ways those feelings are the very same feelings that I will live with my entire life in all things connected to Mormonism. Sadness for the limits, thankful for the beautiful things. No way to tease them apart from each other. It’s the Eve archetype again that tells me there’s no way to know the sweet without the bitter.
I wish more for my daughters and for all of the daughters of Mormonism. I hope that we give them more than a false dichotomy of betraying themselves to follow God or disobeying God to follow their dreams. Or worse, to only have one dream that makes them only an object, as too often Mormon women are.
And while I wish for more, I’m also thankful for all the beauty in my own life, for the sweet and the bitter. Knowing what I know now, I would still choose what I did, but it would’ve been a conscious choice. I wish for that more than anything.
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