Category Archives: Women and Happiness
Over the past few months, there’s an idea I’ve been trying to articulate. It’s the idea of “becoming Real” — that, somehow, embracing “who we really are” is critical to being happy and healthy, and that it is God’s love that facilitates this. I’ve written about it in one form or another here, here, here, and here.
I finally got some clarity on it a week or so ago. During my 12-hour drive to our new city, I listened to portions of a book called Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Oddly enough, it’s a book about masculinity (why I’m reading it is a long but unrelated story), but there is a section that resonated with me as profoundly universal for both men and women.
The concept is basically this…
In my last post, I introduced an idea that is fundamental to the way I make sense of this world: a perspective of radical freedom and radical grace.
Today, I want to explore another implication of this approach: the value of weakness.
In our fast-paced, modern world — and, let’s face it, our self-reliant Mormon culture — there is a sense that weakness and vulnerability are signs of inferiority. That when we struggle, it is because we are doing something “wrong”; or, perhaps, not doing enough things “right.”
And sure enough, with the radical freedom we possess, we create much of our own misery with our choices. That’s part of the purpose of this life, after all; to learn by our experience to determine good from evil.
But not all struggle is “choice”-related. Some of it is the inherent frailty of the flesh. We might say that Nature is as Radically Free as we are, and that it evolves all kinds of problems, such as illness, appetite, brutality, and disaster. For all its stunning beauty, the natural world is also viciously cruel: we have no power against a tsunami, for example. We are polarized beings in a polarized world, with sparks of divinity competing against base, fleshly instincts and natural processes that can destroy us in an instant.
Of course, we would not be free otherwise. Without both extremes, it would be like living in the Truman Show or the Hunger Games, with everything, even the weather, perfectly controlled. There are some who view God this way, as Master Game Maker, but not me. I believe that uncertainty, disease, and corruption are the price we pay for freedom. And that it’s worth it.
The question is what we do with it.
This is the 100th post on my blog! Celebration time!!!!! 🙂
Since it’s my hundredth post, and it’s coming up on the New Year, I thought it might be a nice opportunity for reflection. So I went through some of the old posts I’d written. WOW. What a transformative few years it’s been since I started writing my blog in June 2008.
In some ways, it’s painful to read. In other ways, it’s miraculous. I read between the lines and remember what this journey has been. In particular, it’s striking to revisit the agonizing confusion that came with my fight against OCD, especially before I knew I had OCD (I wasn’t diagnosed until December 2010, but I have been battling it my whole life). I see it in every post, every question. And yet, I would not change any of it. OCD has been my life’s greatest trial; but as is often the case with great trials, it has also provided many of my greatest gifts.
Today, I’d like to share some of the gifts OCD has given me — graces I would not have received were it not for my day-to-day struggle to live a rich, meaningful life despite my disorder. I write this for the benefit of others struggling with difficult trials of every variety (including myself!), but with a special place in my heart for those facing mental illness. I hope this will be a reminder that there is meaning in our battle, that God can create tremendous beauty from even the deepest despair, that there is hope for all of us.
I was recently released from my calling in the primary (hooray!) and called to be a Relief Society teacher (double hooray!). In the past, whenever I’ve taught a Relief Society lesson, I’ve shared a recap here. I’ve enjoyed that, because it’s generated more discussion after the fact — and heaven knows I love a good religious discussion! — and because I think it’s nice to have an archive of lessons that I can look back on over time.
Today’s lesson was called Survival through Faith. It was based on three general conference talks: Faith–The Choice Is Yours by Richard C. Edgley; Our Very Survival by Kevin R. Duncan; and Never Leave Him by Neil L. Anderson.
I wonder if, at the center of a woman’s unhappiness, there isn’t an insatiable Want: to be accepted, to be known, to be loved.
In fairness, I don’t think this is exclusively a “woman” problem. I’m certain men experience similar longings. More likely, this is a human problem — perhaps among the most fundamental of our uniquely human urges. But I’ve never been a man, so I can only speak to my experience as a woman; and from what I’ve observed both in my own life and in my interaction with other women, it seems to be a core component of our collective discontent.
We seek to fill the Want in a variety of ways: relationships, hobbies, careers, motherhood, sex, power, chemicals, causes, shopping, interpersonal drama, food, entertainment.
Depending on the fill, it might work for a while — some more convincingly than others. The stomach-tingling excitement of new romance has filled me for weeks, even months. A good conversation for a day. A Jack-in-the-Box chocolate shake for a solid half-hour.
Eventually, though, the satiation fades and the Want returns — often much stronger than before.
I was planning to go somewhere else with this next post on why women are unhappy, but a recent conversation with a good friend convinced me that I should start here.
So let’s talk, shall we, about that familiar kill-joy for women everywhere: guilt.
I’m reading a book right now that came highly recommended from a counselor friend I admire, called Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul.
I’ll admit: I was (and, to a certain extent, still am) totally skeptical.
It’s a popular Christian book, and as such, I was afraid it would be full of platitudes and patronizing pep talks; or worse, rigid proscriptions of what a woman “should” be: domestic, demure, passive, well-dressed — none of which I am, of course, and which have always contributed to my feeling particularly inadequate as a woman. (The book is not off the hook yet, by the way, because I’m only a chapter and a half in…but so far it’s managed to generally avoid those traps — though it has used some borderline cheesy language that had me rolling my eyes in a place or two.)
Still, last night, feeling a tiny bit discouraged, I picked it up and came across this passage: