Zelophehad’s Daughters

One Year Later

Posted by Seraphine

Last April/May is when my life hit rock bottom: my ex and I permanently broke things off, and I was left facing not only an emotional mess, but a religious crisis of unprecedented proportions. Because yearly anniversaries tend to resonate with me, recently I’ve been pondering my life and revisiting where I was a year ago.

I think the most important thing I’ve gained from everything that has happened is a stronger sense of who I am and an easier time being that person unapologetically. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be liked, trying to live up to certain kinds of ideals, and trying to be the person others wanted me to be. I’m still concerned about being responsive to others, and I still have healthy doses of self-consciousness and anxiety. But I’m so much more comfortable in my own skin. And I’m working on no longer taking responsibility for problems that I haven’t caused and are not mine to solve.

I’ve been reminded that I’m as painfully imperfect as ever, and it’s taking me longer to sort out all my issues with God and religion than I expected. But my students make me laugh. And I have the most incredible family ever. And on most days, I think I’m a pretty decent person.

What I have learned:

*Taking ownership of your mistakes and dysfunctionality is difficult but ultimately freeing.

*Interactions with God often do not work out like stories from the Ensign or conference talks. They are messy and don’t make sense. However, God bestows grace and healing, which makes the messiness a little more endurable.

*I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be in a relationship with someone who understands how to make me happy.

*Mormonism has some pretty incredible doctrines.

Things I’m still trying to work through:

*I’m still afraid to embrace life sometimes. Fear of pain and fear of disappointment are difficult fears to conquer.

*Dating is hard, and something tells me that it’s never going to get easy.

*Balance. It’s too easy to get caught up in work and forget the rest of my life.

So, that’s where I’m at. Nothing astonishing or major–just trying to live life as best as I can. I’ll end with one of my absolute favorite poems, “The Wild Iris” by Louise Gluck, because it sums up the past year of my life better than I can:

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.

19 Responses to “One Year Later”

  1. 1.

    I’m glad you’re in a better place now than you were a year ago. I hope things continue to improve for you.

  2. 2.

    S,
    I’m glad that you have been able to look back over the last year and see how far you’ve come. When we talked about this over dinner a few months ago, I was impressed with how strong you seemed. Clearly, you have a good understanding of what you have accomplished and what you are still working on. That amount of self-awareness is really remarkable.

    Thanks for inspiring me.

    I wish you the best in you life and future.

  3. 3.

    Very powerful.

  4. 4.

    *I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be in a relationship with someone who understands how to make me happy.

    I would probably change the second part of this to “I deserve to be in a relationship with someone who desires me to be happy and strives to make me happy.” Not because your wording is bad, but because I think sometimes it is unattainable. Sometimes we don’t even know ourselves what will make us happy, and it’s not really fair to expect someone else to be able to figure out our emotions when we can’t ourselves. But if the other person sincerely wants and tries to make us happy, things will usually be pretty good.

    Also, I’m glad you’re doing better. :)

  5. 5.

    I don’t know what to say other than that I agree and I’m glad you’ve made it this far and learned those lessons you need.

  6. 6.

    Yeah, life sure sends us some curveballs sometimes. I think you have a lot of people, including the readers of this blog, who are rooting for you. We also hope you find true love and even greater friendship.

  7. 7.

    I loved that poem and I really appreciate you sharing your self evaluation.

    And I’m working on no longer taking responsibility for problems that I haven’t caused and are not mine to solve.

    Can I get an amen? I only started implementing this myself recently and the relief is phenomenal.

  8. 8.

    Seraphine–

    Awesome!

  9. 9.

    I deserve to be in a relationship with someone who desires me to be happy and strives to make me happy.

    I like that.

  10. 10.

    I’m so glad you’re doing better, Seraphine.

  11. 11.

    This makes me happy. My sister says I’ve come into my own in the last few years. I don’t know if that is reaching 30, or what, but I think that, I too, have gained, “a stronger sense of who I am and an easier time being that person unapologetically.” Thank you for sharing your rises and falls–it helps me when I know that there is someone out there who also goes through it.

  12. 12.

    Seraphine, I think we are at opposite ends of that spectrum. My marriage survives. It doesn’t thrive and I’m dealing with a residue of bitterness and always wondering “is this all there is?” I envy you the freedom to explore who you are outside the burden of someone else’s needs and expectations.

    At the same time. I realize that life just doesn’t make sense. I made a choice based on many different aspects of my moral dilemma, not the least was my own ambivalence and fear. My kids and grandkids all breathed a figurative sigh of relief.

    I’ve read about people who decided not to leave and were glad about it 5 years later. Sometimes I’m glad. Mostly I’m resigned to accepting that it is what it is. And that I could do worse.

    But the restlessness and loneliness I feel underlie and color everything I do. Borders on despair.

    Well this is a downer, but you struck a nerve because I remember that exhilarating sense of lightness I felt when I was living alone. Being able to breathe. Scared to death—incredibly conflicted and guilty. But free.

    Maybe it’s just menopause. But I sure talk to a lot of women of my generation who feel the same way. And decide to keep on keeping on. Sigh…poor me.

    Then are people like Sheri Dew who would give her right arm to trade places with me. Boy. Life is hard.

  13. 13.

    annegb, re “Sheri Dew would give her right arm…” You don’t know that. Maybe if she saw your life, she’d say, “That’s OK, I think I’ll stay the single CEO of Deseret Book.”

  14. 14.

    Thanks, all!

    Vada, my statement was an oversimplification of how things work–things are messy, people don’t always realize what will make them happy, etc. I phrased things how I did for specific reasons, but I appreciate your correction. :)

    t, and it makes me so happy to hear you’re coming into your own too. :)

    annegb, these are tricky issues to negotiate. I want a relationship/marriage/family more than just about anything else. At the same time, one of my realizations this past year has been that I would rather be single and lonely than in a relationship that is making me really unhappy. At the same time, I think when you’re married/fully committed to someone, the terrain changes. As you said, “life is hard.”

  15. 15.

    love this. i too am learning to accept my dysfunctionality. and i too have come a long way in one year. thank you for sharing your heart so candidly. it helps us all.

  16. 16.

    I recall being a young single mom and very lonely. And sometimes I think I’m blessed. I, too, appreciate your candor, Seraphine.

  17. 17.

    annegb, your comment really touched me. Sometimes I feel like I’m so surrounded by marriages that are falling apart, or even worse, marriages where people seem beyond miserable but just. keep. sludging. through, that I do a lot of breathing sighs of relief. And lots of prayers of gratitude that I am single and have the flexibility and freedom that comes with that.

    And then sometimes I get so beyond lonely, and get so weighed down by not feeling good enough to have anyone want to be with me, that I feel like I’m caught between this horrible rock of terrifying marriages and a hard place of being alone until I die and forever after.

    It is SO hard to just believe that there is such thing as a marriage that is uplifting and worthwhile and beautiful, and even harder to believe that I might be able to get there some day. I keep telling myself, but most of the time I just don’t believe it’s true.

    I’m going with my sisters to see Wicked next month and we’ve been listening to the soundtrack to make sure we’ve got the lyrics down before we go. The first time I heard the line, “I may be flying solo, but at least I’m flying free” I broke down in tears. It’s so true, and I hate that it’s true.

  18. 18.

    Wow, Enna. Eloquently put. My sister has been single for oh, at least 15 years and I know she gets lonely. But she says the same thing you do. I believe there are good marriages—my own had some good moments—still does.

    I know OF some really good marriages, many that I hear about on the blog. Ann, yours has always sounded good to me. My husband is a very good man. Just not an easy or sensitive one but I’m no picnic either.

    One thing I’ve found interesting is that men become more dependent on their wives as they age and mostly, women become more independent. So single men become more lonely and married women envy single women. I hear it all the time from friends. I read a study once about happiness–don’t remember the exact details. But it rated married men happiest, then single women. Single men were unhappiest.

    The older I get, the more I realize that the prophet was right—or the person he quoted was right—about the up and down ride of life and most beef being tough.

    I was so lonely in my 20′s and deeply in love when I married Bill. I still believe it was what God wanted me to do. But boy sometimes I long for the good old days when I could let the dishes pile up because it was a nice day and I was caught up in a good book.

  19. 19.

    men become more dependent on their wives as they age and mostly, women become more independent. So single men become more lonely and married women envy single women

    Interesting point. I hadn’t really thought of that, but it certainly seems to match couples I know, as well.

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