Becometh as a child…at least until you turn eighteen.

A favorite childhood pastime of mine (and one I would never let my kids do now, along with most of my other “pastimes”) was exploring the woods in my neighborhood with my friends.  One friend in particular had a home in a prime exploring spot that ran along a stream.  We spent a lot of time back there, and apparently so did her older brother.  While it was our favorite place to explore, it was his favorite place to hide his porn.  We came across it one day and I brought it home with me and stashed it in my nightstand.

I was 8.

Another unfortunate pastime of mine was seeking popularity with the wrong crowd.  One night a group of us got bored and decided to go rent a movie (remember video stores?).  While we were there, someone suggested that we sneak into the “back room”.  It’s not really sneaking if there isn’t someone guarding the door and checking your ID, but it was obviously a bad choice if we were being sneaky.  We returned home with an inappropriate movie, I probably called my mom to tell her I’d be late for my curfew because I was doing something really important (definitely not watching porn), and I sat there for an hour laughing uncomfortably with everyone else and thinking about whether it would be worth the embarrassment to tell them to turn it off.  I knew it was wrong, I had been taught better than that.

As a child I thought pornography was something that only adults could look at.  Something to “look forward to”, like driving, or voting.  Why was this stuff even on my radar as a child??  As a teen I learned that it was something that was not really appropriate at any age, but still acceptable in most circles.  I realize now, as an adult, that it is not only inappropriate and unhealthy, but leads to other more serious damaging and unhealthy behaviors (which I’ve seen firsthand with a close family member).

With the unveiling this weekend of the worldwide, morality-crushing phenomenon that I don’t even need to name, I feel the need to be yet another strong oppositional voice in defense of a return to virtue.  This week alone, I have seen far too may phrases used to justify a need for this kind of entertainment:

“It wasn’t abuse; he was upfront about what he wanted and she consented to it.”

“It may have started out dark but in the end it is a love story.”

“You shouldn’t judge BDSM if you’ve never tried it.  Some people really enjoy it.”

“It’s not hurting anyone.  Just don’t see it if you don’t agree with it.”

“It’s not real life, it’s just fantasy.  Stop making such a big deal out of it.”

“We’re sexual beings designed perfectly by God.  We can choose to express our sexuality in whatever way we want.”

What??  Don’t blame God for this.  And as if that last one wasn’t bad enough, an even more terrifying card is being played:

“I won’t let my kids won’t see this.  Certain things are made for certain ages and this is an adult novel.”

I’ve been going over this and over this in my mind.  Why does it matter what age you are?  Is there an age that morality and decency stop being important, and if so how do we decide what that age is?  Once you’re 18 are you not emotionally affected by things like violence, profanity, and indecency?  One person admitted that she and her husband planned to see the movie together this weekend without their kids (obviously) but it’s okay because “we have a rule that our kids can’t date until they’re 16.”  Yes, that’s a start.  But what happens once they turn 16 and suddenly they decide to “express their sexuality in whatever way they want”, because Heaven forbid they be accused of inexperienced judgment?

I have to admit, I am not completely void of guilt in this respect.  When Aaron and I watch TV at night we turn the sound way down, and if our kids come into the living room at anytime we pause the show quickly to avoid the scarring that may occur when they see someone getting beaten up or shot or naked pushed up against a wall, or to avoid the embarrassment at the grocery store when one of them repeats a word they heard, or when they call someone that word at school (which did happen last week when my daughter told me a boy called her 6-year-old friend “sexy” on the playground).  The conversation that would follow would go something like, “Honey, we don’t use words like that,” “But they were saying it on TV,” “Yes, you’re right, but only adults can use words like that, and only when they’re really angry, or trying to be funny, and only when no one is listening, and only if they’re not Christians.”

Why the double standard?  If its not right for kids, why is it all right for us?

A scripture passage from the bible keeps popping up in my head:

…Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?  And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4).

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We could all stand to learn from children.  Children come to Earth with “believing hearts. They are full of faith…They exemplify humility, obedience, and love. They are often the first to love and the first to forgive (Jean A. Stevens of the LDS Primary General Presidency).  With all the time we spend trying to move on and forget the past, maybe there is more to be gained from remembering it than we realize.

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Waiting For Someone to Flip a Switch

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I live in a small concrete room.  It has one narrow window with bars across it.  The soundproof glass is dusty and finger-printed but from the outside so there’s nothing I can do to clean it.

Inside the room there is a thermostat on the ceiling.  The temperature reads 50 degrees but I can’t reach it to control it.  Once in a while the temperature will readjust itself to 67, or 95, and back to 50.  I just angrily watch it shift without my permission.

Every once in a while someone enters the room.  They seem not to notice I am there.  I speak to them but when they finally speak back, its in a different language.  I repeat the same sentence over and over to them, getting more and more frustrated at their baffled expression.  It makes perfect sense to me.  As they conclude that we will never understand one another, they leave the room from where they came.  I wish I knew how to unlock the door.

Later, the same person returns but with a train of people following.  Each looks at me sympathetically but does nothing to help me and then exits the room as a group.  I’m confused about their purpose as I’m left standing in this room alone.

Outside the window there is a stage.  Throughout the day people enter the stage.  I can see people on the outside watching them happily, clapping occasionally, and then moving on.  I wish I could be on that stage.

Without warning, someone will appear and announce to me plainly, in my own language, that they need something from me.  My mind becomes clear and I feel a breeze coming through the window that is usually sealed shut.  I have a purpose.  I ask them what they need, and they lead me out of the room and to the stage.  While I’m on that stage I forget where I came from or who led me there.  People are watching me.  Really seeing me.  This is where I belong.

It ends as quickly as it began and I find myself looking out the barred window at someone who looks just like me, only she’s smiling and there are people surrounding her.  I think maybe that person is the real me, and the person in this room is only dreaming.  I wish she would look at me so I can give her some kind of sign that I need her help.

I watch the smiling girl and take note of her mannerisms, wondering if they’re real or if she came from a room just like mine.  I try not to judge and just enjoy watching “myself” be happy.  The thought comes to me that maybe one day I can be just like her all the time.  If that is the truth, can I handle this small concrete room with the dirty, barred window for a while longer knowing what I have to look forward to?

Yes, I think, I can.

But what happens when the sun goes down and I can’t see the stage, or the girl?

After what seems like an eternity of silence and darkness the door opens, letting in a flood of light, and someone comes in.  They look familiar.  They’re smiling and greet me warmly.  I should be as happy to see them as they are to see me.  I bury my face in my hands as they embrace me.  When I look up and scan my surroundings, the person is gone, but I’m standing outside.  I can hear birds and laughter.  I’m not alone, in fact I’m holding the hand of a young child who is gazing up at me.  She tells me that she loves me.  I take a deep breath.

Mother

Even if you know me well, you may still not know that I struggle with depression and anxiety.  The anxiety part is a little more obvious.  The depression part is much better concealed.

I couldn’t tell you exactly when it started, but what I do know is that until I had children I had many more things to distract me from how I really felt deep down.  I was rarely alone; I had great friends and a supportive family, lots of activities and goals that consumed every waking (and non-waking) thought.

For the first year Aaron and I were married, I worked as part-time faculty in the dance department of the college I graduated from, followed by a short stint as a secretary in the hospital ER.  Both jobs were somewhat fulfilling, but as I only worked part-time I spent a lot of time home alone while Aaron was at work.  I had no roommates, and now that we had moved to a new town I had no friends.

When my daughter was born, I decided not to go back to work.  And I have been not working ever since.  For 7 years, I have been in my house.  Alone.  I still have difficulty making friends as close as the ones I had in college.  The decision to go back to work is always there, but this is where the anxiety kicks in.  Where do I take my kids?  What qualifications do I have?  Is there actually a job I would enjoy enough to make up for the guilt I feel about not being a stay-at-home mom?

I wrote the above short-story last week — I was having a very bad day — to try to put into words how it feels to be depressed and anxious.  It was the over-analyzer in me trying to make sense of my brain.  It was therapeutic to write it, but I worried about how people I care about would take it.  So I had my sister and my husband read it for me.

I don’t think they got it.  At least not Aaron, bless his Mr. Rogers heart.  And as I tried to explain myself I felt less and less validated that my feelings were real and uncontrollable.

But it is real.  I have spent many years feeling trapped and alone.  My prayers (when I have the energy and courage to say them) consist of anything from begging for a miracle to admitting that I give up.  I feel forgotten and usually angry when I think that my prayers don’t change anything.

Today I saw this video.

When I got to the part in my story about what would happen when the sun goes down, I felt very hopeless and had no idea what to write from there.  Suddenly, as if someone was putting thoughts in my head, I started typing and what came out was that someone who cares about me, who knows me, entered into my lonely room and gave me peace when I least expected it.  I didn’t know what to think of that.  A part of me thought of Aaron and his support for me even during my most difficult times.

But as I watched this video today, the very strong realization came over me that no matter how lost I feel and that no one is listening or understanding, my Heavenly Father is watching over me and has his hand in my life.  But his timing is different from mine and he knows best when to interfere and when to let things play their course.  In the mean time, he needs me on his side.  Today.

I loved the end of this video: It is part of our condition as Mortals to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness.  But even though we may feel lost, God promises to illuminate the way before us…no matter how long it takes.

Spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness, waiting for someone to flip a switch.  It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the light of Christ.

Twenty years later, I still don’t know everything, but I now know who I am.  And I know who God is.

I have a feeling that there will be no Mary Poppins that shows up on my door step to take care of my kids, clean my house, get me my dream job, all the while singing happy songs.  But there will be a day when a feeling of peace comes over me.  When I feel as if someone is hugging me.  When I feel as if I am home.