Friday, January 28, 2011

Mormon & Single 3:

When I was little my biggest fears included the following:
  • Bloody Mary living under my bed. 
  • Leaving the lunch money for me and my 2 siblings on the bus (this actually happened). 
  • My sundial science project being used as a shovel in the sand box (this also happened). 
  • Not ever getting married.
From my seven year-old perspective, the whole dating/marriage process sounded suspiciously like a gigantic, maybe horrifying, round of picking teams. No one wants to be picked last—ever.

But I was seven. And, who really thinks about things like that for very long? So, then I grew up.

When I was 24, I moved into little a apartment with two 20 year-olds. At this point in my life, at least one round of close friends had already been married for 3 years, I was about to graduate from college, and that old sneaking suspicion about picking teams and dating was occasionally haunting me.
By this time, I'd already read, He's Just Not that Into You*. So, I wasn't buying excuses like, "You're too independent" or "He's just intimidated."

Being Mormon narrows a person's dating pool to a very small amount. I mean... very small—if you want to date in your religion. Add in a personality which is sort of different...well, the pool is tiny (maybe the size of a fish bowl?).

I was beginning to wonder, what if?

In my new ward I had a relief society president who was 28, single & totally cool. She was an artist. Which doesn't mean anything to anyone else, except I didn't know too many artists, and I wanted to be one some day. When our ward had an 80's dance, she had the coolest outfit. She wasn't sitting lonely and sad anywhere.

I never heard her complain or be bitter (although I'm sure she complained to friends, her mom, etc., because that is totally normal).

But, she took every opportunity to be open about her experience. She told us over and over again that being RSP didn't make her immune to pain. She told us she'd had her heart broken. A lot. And she said it hurt. A lot.

Then she told us that we must decide for ourselves if Christ really came to save us from our sins and our heartbreak. Because if he did, he could help us make that pain into something compassionate and beautiful. If he didn't? What was the point of coming to church?

So I decided. And, I decided that if I had to be single for a long time or my whole life, I wanted to be like her. I didn't want to be sitting anywhere sad and bitter. I wanted my life to equal happiness and hope and love. Christ was just going to have to help me because I really believed he died so that I didn't have to feel despair.

At the end of that year, my super cool relief society president got married and moved away. And, I moved away. But, I’ve never forgotten her or the things she said to me. (She doesn’t know the wake of healing and hope she left behind her. She could never have any idea.)

***

In the years since, I've really seen how God can take pain and just take it out of your hand, roll it around for a while, and hand back this gorgeous glowing lovely thing.

It sounds so easy, but there have been nights when maybe the neighbors heard me crying through the bathroom window.

You learn real fast how and why agency matters in any hard thing. It would be so easy it get brittle and mean. And ugly. Ugliness is so easy when he just stood you up again. Or after he promised to marry you then changed his mind. Or after he never calls. Or after you haven't been on a date in months.

I wanted to fall in love with my best friend just like my friend Sam. I wanted to have ten kids. Just like my mom. I wanted my husband to have memories of me when I was 21, and to know what my hair looked like before it started turning white. I mean, I had really pretty knees when I was 23.

***
It takes a lot of breathing. And conscious choices you feel in your gut. (Also, real life prayers where you really believe you're talking to someone who created you.) (And maybe yoga). But, its possible to feel great happiness despite great disappointment.

One time, I was watching my younger brother cut open a pomegranate. He cut off maybe half an inch from the top of the fruit. I was busy shredding lettuce, but I happened to glance over just as he made the cut. In all my life, I'd never seen a color so deep and red and lovely. The color was made up of all these seeds packed together. Just jammed together. It looked so vulnerable and hopeful at the same time. I thought to myself: I want that to be my heart*.

***
So, every day = my agency. My life is just as fun and gorgeous as I can dream it up to be. So yes, thank you, I will be delighted when I finally see those stained glass cathedral windows all lit up—I had no idea I just had to drive by at six in the morning.

And yes, thank you, I will love you forever for helping me pick up the contents of my art box—in the cold, on the icy sidewalk, you even found my needles.

Thank you, you can't marry me, but you minced garlic and sauteed vegetables whenever you knew I was starving.

Or. Here is a sunset with clouds, here is a sunset without, and here is a sunrise that wakes you up, and here is rain in the middle of the day, and here are some Christmas lights, some oranges, some raspberries, a dad who misses his plane so he can replace your garbage disposal, a brother who likes hanging out with you even when you're cranky, another brother who calls you to tell you his swim times, a sister who lets you call her when you have horrific nightmares.

How about neighbors who shovel your walk when it snows? a mom who makes you turn around instead of driving all night through a snowstorm? or maybe some friends who make you laugh super hard all the time? This is all in addition to things like waking up in a room with blue and green wallpaper, the view from the corner of my street (at night), and the existence of elephants and whales.

Is every day like that Yael Naim music video? 
Nope. I’m working on it though.

*** 
The truth is we all have hard things we have to live through, suffer through and/or overcome.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends was telling me she was lonely. She said a lot of things that were similar to what the author of the NYT article said. Things like, wouldn't God want me to have this experience? Wouldn't he want me to share my life with someone? Then she said, I don't want to die a virgin.

I mean... it was sort of dramatic. I also knew she'd just kissed someone like two weeks before. I wanted to tell her: "There are people in this room (there were a lot of people in the room) who have real problems! Pull yourself together! At least you can swim! You can taste food! You have the use of all your limbs!"

I could tell she was sort of fragile about the whole issue—so I said something normal.

The whole point of life is to have experiences specifically designed to bring us closer to God—and to become like God. Sometimes the experiences are happy. Sometimes they are really difficult. Really difficult. Sometimes the difficult things last our whole entire lives. But, the design is the same for both kinds. Isn't that a relief?! Isn't that joyous? We can't lose! No one loses! Yay! We all get to be acquainted with God (if we want)! It's so hard! It's really really hard! And so fun!

The normal thing I told my friend (and I only repeat here in the hope that it could help someone else—because it really helped me):
One time one of my friends—who is pretty religious but has no issues with sex while dating—asked me about why I wouldn't have sex. I told him some reasons. Mainly, I made a promise to God. And, I happen to love God. I don't really want to let him down.

Then, he said, "I can't believe you've never had that experience—you don't know what it's like."

I said, "I just know something different."
For the first time I realized that what I was choosing wasn't a lack or an absence, but an experience that was helping me gain real knowledge.

So yeah, I can walk into a room of professional, adult people and not feel like I am a child trapped in a woman's body. I know something different than most of them—probably all of them, and its completely appropriate because I'm not married.

I'm not celibate because I've been told all my life it's wrong to have sex before marriage. Not even because pre-marital celibacy automatically prevents unplanned pregnancy, stds, one-night stands, and a lot of emotional trauma.

I’m celibate because it’s a form of worship, it’s a physical practice of faith hope and charity, a sacred prayer--and something that brings me closer to God (who loves me).*

***

Notes regarding:
  • The book He's Just Not that Into You—I probably need to read it again because I still forget stuff in there— like, he's not that into you if he's not asking you out... a basic principle (I know. Gosh) (bwhahaha).
  • The heart/pomegranate story—You probably don't believe me. But go buy a pomegranate, cut it in half and see what pops into your mind. Probably something amazing.
  • The end of this post—I'm not really done... This post is intended to be read as another story in response to an article posted in the NYT.
***
If you read this post, and you still feel like life is sad, lonely, disappointing and/or stupid. Do what my friend Sam always tells me to do: turn off all the lights in your room, then turn on some sad music super loud.

Some songs. 
I won't go home without you
Heartbeats
I hung my head
Nothin' Fancy
Leader of the Pack

80 comments:

  1. e, I really enjoyed this post. I felt so many of these things when I was graduating from my undergrad with no chance of getting married, and again starting my last year of grad school with the same situation. It felt like life was passing me by, and no one asked my preference on the matter. I had to actively decide to be happy, and remember to find something each day to be grateful for. Eventually I did get married, to a guy who also escaped his early 20's unmarried, and now I have my little one...but all those experiences I had while I was single (traveling, learning to make cakes, taking voice lessons, late night swims at the gym) I now look back on and smile knowing things were good, even if at times they didn't seem that way in the moment.

    And btw, your story about your cool relief society president who made you feel better at 24, you were that person for me. I loved your kindness, your spunk, your testimony, and being your visiting teacher. I loved that you were in grad school, something I was staring in a few months, it helped me see that someone close to my age wasn't married either, but was enjoying the ride! Thank you for that.

    I hope you have a great weekend, and again, beautiful post. I bet it will keep me thinking through the morning.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You remind me how beautiful life is. I have exactly the life that Mormon girls dream of (except that my son is supposed to be napping, but instead he's crying in his crib, waiting for me to rescue him), but this post reminded me how no matter what is happening in your life, being close to God is key. Nothing is beautiful without that relationship. You're so strong and smart, and even with my practically perfect life, I want to be more like you, because your life is beautiful, too. Your singleness is no flaw.

    And I love what you said about picking teams. I think we must have been a lot alike when we were seven.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh my goodness...this is beautiful! Absolutely beautiful!

    And if you don't mind, I want to send this link to a couple of my friends.

    And can I just say one thing? Just one little thing? Even when you wait until you are 34 before you get married, and you marry the right person for you, in the right place, knowing that it was absolutely God's timing...even then you are still going to have lonely days. Very very lonely, cry in the bathroom til the neighbors hear, days. And that's okay, because it's those days that still bring you closer to God.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lovely, so lovely....thank you for sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @ Kristin & Anna: we had a good time back in the day didn't we? There is something about relief society-- i've been so lucky to know you.

    @ Noelle, girl, you share this with whoever you want. If I'm going to tell people that in the 3rd grade, some kids used my cardboard sundial project (it was so pretty!) as a gigantic sand shovel... well lets make that announcement as public as possible.

    @ marenita (heart)

    @ anonymous #1 (thank you so much)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for finally posting this! I read the NYT article when you posted it on fb a while ago, and I'm glad you wrote your own thoughts about everything. I look up to you a lot (again, you were that RS Pres for me too! And a great visiting teacher too!). Keep on being smart and beautiful and awesome. <3

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you so much for this posts (and all the ones before I was too scared to comment on). You probably don't remember, but I was that shy (possible awkward) freshman girl in your English 150 class 3.5 years ago. You told me when you were reviewing my paper that the testing center can get cold sometimes (I hadn't taken a college test yet) and you advised me to layer. I have been layering ever since and it is the one piece of advice I always pass along to new students. Thank you for that! But back to things at hand...

    May I dare say this might be your best post yet. It is lovely, strengthening, uplifting, and pure hope. As a very single girl in the BYU sea of marriages and couples, this post was refreshing, uplifting, and brought me peace.

    Thank you for being gorgeous and sharing it with others. I have loved this discussion that was sparked by the NYT article.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm going to be thinking about this for a while too. I thought the writing and words were lovely. But what I'm REALLY thinking, is that I am so happy that you are friends with me. You are seriously one of my favorite people in the entire world and I love you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I want you to know that you were that Relief Society President for me last March. Honestly. When I was in a very dark place, you told me exactly what I needed to hear, and it helped me to heal.

    And this? This post. Wow.

    It hit a chord that needed to be plucked at this point in time in my life. Thank you forever.

    The whole time I read, I kept thinking, "I wish I could write something as beautiful as this." Instead, I get the privilege to enjoy it...which is a blessing in and of itself.

    ReplyDelete
  10. emilia...look at the amazing influence you are in all of our lives. like it was mentioned above...your words are refreshing and just lovely. i didn't remember the words that our r.s. pres said, but i am so thankful that you did. who would have thought that those words said years ago (that i didn't even remember) would bless me now. thank you. i love you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Emily, you are so inspiring! you have such a beautiful soul and such an incredible talent for sharing your feelings and experiences and testimony with others in the most eloquent and poignant way. This post is gorgeous and such a hopeful and faithful way to look at life, especially in response to the article in the NYtimes. It really helped me to think about my own response to being mormon and single and why it can be hard and still joyful; and the way I hope I will go forward with my life-you are a wonderful example!

    I have looked up to you for your kindness, intelligence and amazing talent for expressing beautiful ideas in perfect words since I was in your class several years ago. I am so grateful that I can still be touched by your beauty and spirit now!

    Again, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. so great. can't wait to be one of the sea of followers. no wonder you teach a creative writing class. . .

    ReplyDelete
  13. corinne, aren't we supposed to be friends on facebook? how come i can't find you?

    I TOTALLY REMEMBER YOU!! I'm so happy you remember me! I can't remember the layering comment, but I laughed out loud when I read it. I like to be useful, you know...so I'm so happy.

    So please...add me. or at least send me your blog.

    love,
    ms. d

    p.s. how could i ever forget you! we had such a fun class.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I linked here from C. Jane's twitter, and oh how happy I am. This post is beauty personified. It speaks to my heart. And I'm a married mother of 4. But what you speak of in this post is basically that we can choose to be happy despite our trials and challenges. But you write it so exquisitely.

    I especially loved your closing remarks about the choice to be celibate. Very powerful. Very important. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Everyone should make the choice that is right for them. I, too, am a former RS President in a single's ward. As I approached my mid-30s, I had a growing fear that I would be a 40 year old virgin (I had a similar fear when I was 15 that my next birthday cake would say "Sweet 16 & Never Been Kissed"). I had some small but significant doubts about the church that I'd carried with me for a long time. If I had been more culturally connected to the church (read: married with kids), I think I could have lived with those doubts. But as I thought more about it, I realized I was sacrificing a lot to be a stalwart member. And quite frankly, if I was going to die a virgin, I needed to be REALLY sure that those sacrifices were worth it.

    I won't go into detail, but I met a man when I was 37...after I had eased over time into church inactivity. I had to actually script out how I was going to tell him I had been celibate my whole life. Fortunately, he handled it beautifully. None of the long term (sex-free) relationships I'd had to that point even came close to what I experienced over the next year in terms of intimacy, both physical and emotional. We are no longer together, but it fundamentally changed me.

    I hope you get to experience that level of intimacy within the bonds of marriage, since that is what you desire. But you may have a different perspective ten years from now.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I never had a chance to feel any of that. I married at 19 and now at 27 I often find myself wishing I were single, without children and without having to have sex (some times it feels like I HAVE to even if I don't WANT to) every night. Just sayin.... ;D

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm going to either be later for work or look like a sad mess in a pony tail... But I came across your post this morning and I had to read it now.When you get an answer to a prayer it shouldn't wait until later.

    So... Thank you from a mormon and single parent. And let me tell you what, the second time around is 10 times harder. But your post truly helped me. :)Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I am wondering which NYT essay you are talking about. Could you please link it?

    Mariona from Spain

    ReplyDelete
  19. @ Anon #2: thank you for your comment & story. I will probably write another essay in ten years, but right now, I see more and more that worship is real--that I really can feel closer and closer to God-- it's kind of amazing. and I love it. I don't want that feeling to change. I hope it will continue in whatever challenges (or happiness) I face whether or not I ever get married.

    ReplyDelete
  20. emily, thank you so much for this. this is beautifully written and i about cried (at work) about the pomegranate...because that is your heart. you are so beautiful in every way.

    it is so refreshing and lovely to read about experience from faith, as opposed to experience from "experience," in the NYT article. the point you made about knowing something different made such a strong impression on me.

    i love you and your heart. thank you for this public testimony.

    ReplyDelete
  21. i came from your sisters blog...linking back to you...

    THANK you so much for sharing this...being a VERY single girl...being the last of her friends still single...it gets hard...i feel like i need to read this a few more times... to let it soak in...and i want more...more tips and help on how to have the attitude you have. for the most part... i am pretty good and chipper... but not always... not lately...
    i am also sending this to a few friends....
    thank you so much.. new follower :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. So beautifully articulated! Such an amazing perspective and outlook! Inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Mariona from SpainJanuary 31, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Thank you Emilia for the link.

    Mariona from Spain.

    ReplyDelete
  24. p.s. mariona, i love spain. i lived there one time for a couple of months. it's so beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Nichole and JeremyJanuary 31, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    Emilia,

    That was just beautiful. It still hit home. I was 30 when I was married, and it was a flash of memories of all the things that you describe.

    I ended up marrying a man, who had been married before, and had 3 children. Very different then anything I had ever imagined. He had married a woman at 22 the first time, who loved her own Mom and Dad more then him and ended up divorcing him. I am glad that I was 30 had experienced life and filled my cup with so many wonderful experiences that I was ready to marry him. I never gave up my standards, but my long list of what I thought I "Deserved" changed greatly with "maturity" I have the most wonderful husband whom I married in the temple, who treasures me,and my siblings whom were married in the early 20's are jealous of how good I have it! and I know now, despite all my trials and hard times it was worth it in the end.

    Heavenly Father will bless you more then you can even imagine. Be Strong. You are amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Beautifully written! You speak what I believe. Thank you so much for this.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm glad you wrote this. And shared it with us.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I've had a special place in my heart for you ever since I took your creative writing class. This is beautifully written and I plan on sharing it with lots of people. Thank you for being you and for staying strong, it means more than you could ever know.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love reading your posts. You have a gift of taking situations and transforming them into something beautiful. Thank you for your thoughts and inspiration. I'm going to send this to my mom.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thank you very much for this. I am constantly amazed at the "beautiful, glowing things" Heavenly Father hands back to me. Thank you for reminding me to be thankful.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Just linked here from C Jane. Wow. Thank you for sharing your perspective with such power and beauty.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I love this (stumbled on your blog from C Jane's link). Thank you for sharing so eloquently what I needed today...

    ReplyDelete
  33. Beautifully written. It is worship. At the end of the day - when you consider how immense God is - you realize that there is nothing higher or more important than worship. Not sex, not a relationship, not avoiding feeling awkward in a room. Life without worship is empty. Life without all the rest is still life - and incredibly full when viewed with correct sight of truth.

    ReplyDelete
  34. This is a beautiful post. However, I will say that being a single woman has, for me, become a lot harder as time goes by. What you write resonates with my younger slef but not my older self, which feels far more in turn with the author of the NYT article.

    What didn't matter too much as a 22-year-old matters a lot more as a 30-year-old. In part this is about wanting what I don't have, but in part it's about seeing friends in marriages and having kids and "moving on" to stages of life and feeling "left behind." From the feedback I get from friends and family, I know that I don't project this pain to the world and that they see me as an independent, creative, engaging person. But to be told I'm that person and to remain single is a hard burden, emotionally and physically.

    Having said this, I hope you're able to handle it better than I am.

    ReplyDelete
  35. This post is so beautiful and spot on. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I love this post and believe we could be good friends. Beautifully written!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Just jumped over here from CJane's blog. You are a rock star. Seriously. I felt inspired to know my God and Savior better and to feel of my potential from that divine relationship just by reading your words. I love love loved it. Thank you for sharing something so amazing and real.

    ReplyDelete
  38. This was an excellent post! I read this after I read that NYT article. I am also LDS, didn't get married till later (had all of the weird, questions, angst about being single) and I knew then as I know now, I couldn't control my situation, but I could control my reaction. I remember the day I chose to be happy with my life no matter what. That choice has blessed me in so many ways. Being chaste also blessed me in so many ways. I am thankful for that commandment.

    I appreaciate that you mentioned that chastity was a form of worship, not denial as well. There is more to life and a marriage than sex.

    I also think, that even though there is a well defined "culture" in the LDS Church, there are no normal people. If you strip away the facades you'll find everyone is imperfect, quirky, strange, weird in their own ways. Because of that I think we just need to figure out how to make a place for ourselves at the table, and not expect others to do that for us. If a person is unmarried and virginal, or unmarried and not virginal, or a single parent, or a mother with 10 kids, we all have something to bring and offer. I think that's why having a relationship based in faith in Christ is so essential. That is what is most important. And it also never hurts to just stand up for yourself when people say dumb things too. I sometimes wonder if some of the relatives and "well meaning" people who made comments about my older singletonness knew how stupid those things sounded as they tripped out of their mouths?

    Anyway, I again, I found this post to be very inspiring and I hope it does inspire people to not be judgemental, to go out and find out who people really are, to take that sister, or that brother into their circles and just love them, for who they are.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thank you. I saw your link on a post by CJane and came over to read. I love this:
    "The whole point of life is to have experiences specifically designed to bring us closer to God--and to become like God. Sometimes the experiences are happy. Sometimes they are really difficult. Really difficult. Sometimes the difficult things last our whole entire lives. But, the design is the same for both kinds."

    So true. What a beautiful response to a somewhat disheartening article.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I feel like I'm this proud sister or friend or something...

    Except proud in a good way, not a bad way. :)

    I LOVE That CJane referred people to your blog. I LOVE it!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Great post, thank you! I got married late (by Mormon standards) and quite frankly, was not in a hurry to get married. I was VERY content in my single life, knew who I was and what my mission at the time was. I knew God had me in hand, and I wish more of us knew that.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I am a friend of your brother Greg and came over from Cjane today. This was really insightful and interesting. You have a gift for writing and i love your take on life!

    ReplyDelete
  43. I was quite angry when I read the NYT article. It seems to be more about promoting Planned Parenthood and living any way you want than anything else (which is not surprising coming from the NYT). Your response was so full of God's grace it swelled up inside me and took my anger away and calmed my soul. I worked in the healthcare field for ten years specializing in neonatal and OB/GYN. I have seen all the horrors that sex can cause. What God created to be beautiful within a marriage, Satan has taken it and made it something to be worshipped. It will never be the best of you nor should it. Your desire for God is where true happiness lies. Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  44. i, too, linked from cjane. i, too, never comment on blogs of those i don't know...

    i so needed this today. you have no idea. i feel like i have just read what has been in my heart for way too long.

    thank you. absolutely beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Thank you for this thoughtful and beautifully written post. When I read it, something seemed familiar. I searched around and realized that a couple of years ago you wrote another post I loved which happened to be on the sanctity of marriage. It was articulate and right on. You are talented--thank you for taking the time to craft such lovely and inspiring writing!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Isn't it interesting that a 38 year old who married at 19, and has three kids, could relate to your post? Even though our life experiences may seem different, they really aren't. This life is about coming closer to Christ. It's a personal journey, and it doesn't matter if you have a husband and children in tow, or are single,you still have to walk it if you want the end goal. You made me realize all of the wonder I'm missing out on by focusing on the wrong things. This was an absolute beautiful post, it changed my way of thinking, how powerful is that?...thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I am a 41 year old single mom who has been married and divorced twice, so I didn't have to go through the "picked last" part, but I have been "kicked off the team" twice, and your post had soo many parts that could have been written by me. If I was to add anything, it would be "Don't rush into a marriage just to be on the 'team' cuz you don't want to find out later that it is the 'losing team'. It is better to have waited forever for the right one than to live a second in a bad marriage. Thank you for your post and for touching my heart.

    ReplyDelete
  48. this is all so interesting to me. I can't decide how to feel about it. I read the NYT article when it was published, and it really depressed me. I feel exactly the way she did--a sense of arrested development. I'm in my late 30s and still struggling to establish a career (been chipping away at it since I was 25), so that doesn't help. I know no good comes of comparisons and I know we're promised that God knows our situations and they're for our best...but what do we do in the meantime, when we've had faith for a very long time and no end is in sight? At a certain point I feel like I'm not even walking anymore, I'm crawling. And then I'm stopped. I take advantage of my singlehood in every way I can, and I can honestly say it's not singlehood that causes my unhappiness. It's this stagnation, this utter lack of discernible progress, this sense of, yes, arrested development. Sex is an obvious step. It's not the only one, but it's big. Am I really 38 years old and don't know *anything* about that very, very basic thing? Does God actually have anything "in store" for me? I can't decide. I know we need relationships with JC more than we need anything else. But aren't we also supposed to have joy? At least once in a while?

    ReplyDelete
  49. Beautifully written. Thank you.

    Also, as a married woman (and thankfully to a great guy), can I just say that I have NEVER looked at the people I know who are not yet married, and I guess celibate and thought, "LOOK AT THAT VIRGIN. I CAN'T BELIEVE SHE (or HE) IS MISSING SEX." NEVER. EVER. Not even once. In fact, I don't think I've ever labeled a person in that situation "celibate" or "virgin" at all.

    Really, I keep my mind out of other people's bedrooms, whether or not that bedroom is occupied by a married or single person...

    ReplyDelete
  50. That was beautiful! I found the link to this post from C. Jane and I am so glad I read it. I read the NYT article this morning and have been so bothered by it, thinking I need to share my opinion with the author of that article. But, after reading your post, I think you summed up all I would have said. I am married, so my experience is different than yours, but what I so admired from your post is 1) your conviction to your beliefs, 2) your testimony, 3) your relationship with Heavenly Father that seems to be so firm, 4) your understanding of the Plan even though you may not be living it the way you had earlier pictured, 5) your courage to keep your covenants even when it seems hard, and 6) your courage to post something so close to your heart. It was a beautiful post and I wish this is what was published in the NYT. This is a post that should be acknowledged and praised. Although i don't know you, I can see that you are a very neat person and it sounds like, from previous comments, you are an example to many. Thank you for sharing such tender feelings.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Linked over from Cjane and what a treat! This post was insightful, thought provoking, so well communicated--I felt your heart vibrating, I swear. So thank you. Thank you for putting such a beautiful voice to the conversation.

    The parts that will stay with me? That thing about God playing with your hurt and handing back as something glowing a beautiful. I get that. So get that. But you said it so well.

    And the bit about your chastity being a form of worship, that was fantastic. And it has me thinking about the parts of my life that are hard, but might be made easier if I see them in that way. As an opportunity for worship. Deep and resonating with me.

    And I'm also thinking about the enormous and disproportionate (in my opinion)importance our culture places on sex. As if it is the end all be all. I can't help but feel that this enormous milestone--once it is passed--will certainly shrink in magnitude and find its proper place as simply single component in a much larger and fulfilled life. And wouldn't it be a shame to realize that after having given up something so much larger?

    What I know is that if anyone is looking for happiness in sex, they are not going to find it. It is as silly as looking for happiness in dessert. Momentary and fleeting. To balance the scales of life with faith on one hand and sex on the other, as the NYT article seemed to do, seemed shortsighted.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Hi All. This is the anonymous former RS President who posted last week. I hate to post anonymously, but given the nature of my comments, I'm sure you can respect why that is important to me.

    I want to address a couple of things that have come up since my comment. First, I do not think any of us who are or have been in this situation believe that happiness will be found in the act of having sex. That is a leap in logic that makes us all sound shallow and stupid. What was missing for me was fulfillment through a committed relationship and the intimacy that is such an important part of that commitment. And to someone's point earlier, it's about the need we have to develop and evolve as human beings--to feel like we are progressing. How can anyone deny that commitment and intimacy between two people is not a huge part of the human experience? To yearn for that is absolutely natural in every way.

    Second, for those who got married very young, it is impossible for you to relate to what we are going through. It's nice to have your encouragement. But you have no idea what this feels like, nor will you ever. I would just ask that you not judge since you have not walked a mile in our shoes.

    Finally, something that Emilia said in her response to my first comment has stuck with me and that is that through her "worship" (i.e. celibacy), she feels closer to God and she doesn't want to give that up. I know this is so counter to what we are taught as LDS people, but your relationship with God doesn't have to end if you leave the church or make a choice that will supposedly separate you from God. I only speak for myself, but my decisions did not lead me into a dark, empty, Godless existence at all. In fact, it has been quite the contrary.

    Anyway, all the comments have been thoughtful and respectful, and it is my hope that no one takes offense at what I have shared. I simply wish to relate what I have learned, mostly for the sake of the other women reading this who are dealing with this struggle. My heart is with you.

    ReplyDelete
  53. emily- i really admire you. you are not afraid to stand up for what you believe and that makes all of us feel a little bit more courageous. i know you have been an example to many many people, me included.

    april

    ReplyDelete
  54. I love you! I think you are a wonderful person and I've only read your one post (plus the preface). I had tears rolling down my face the whole time I was reading.

    Just wanted to say thank you for this post. I read cjane's and then the NYT article. I loved Cjane's, and thought Nicole's was moving, but was so saddened by her choice.

    I have five children. Married at 23 after a mission. A great husband (even though we've had our struggles).

    But I agree that everyone has challenges and the only answer is a true faith in Christ. If only we can love each other the way we're supposed to. As Christ did.

    That's what I want to teach my Young Women on Sunday.

    God Bless You!
    (and enjoy some Yoga! That helps me too!)

    ReplyDelete
  55. anonymous:

    This post is about being single & celibate, but i hoped it would be more about how I face any challenges as a woman who believes in God (a God who has high expectations).

    I'm happy you feel good about the decisions in your life. That's always a good thing.

    I wonder why you feel so compelled to persuade me to make a different decision, or to convince me that I'll feel differently in ten years. You have been very polite, but your comments are still meant to persuade--

    God loves us no matter what choices we make.

    My religion does teach that we can make specific choices which will make us feel closer to him-- and choices that help us become like him. I've been trying that out. I'm not a perfect person. But, so far, I found it to be really true. And a bonus that I've been thinking about for a while is that the more I practice self-control, I feel like my capacity to love and be loved is
    expanded.

    That is my experience.

    ReplyDelete
  56. @ Kate,

    Thank you so much for commenting. I really appreciate it.

    Yes, God wants us to feel joy. He probably wants us to feel joy every single minute of our lives. But he also knows that we can develop in a challenge sometimes a lot faster than we can without any sort of "want" or "need."

    I don't know why each person gets their specific challenges or hard things. But, I believe in a God who wants us to use them to find out more about him.

    I also think there are many many reasons to feel joy and joyousness.

    It's a tricky situation. As is any challenge.

    The good news is that God loves you.

    And, I'm wishing you good things from the shore of a very salty lake.

    emilia

    ReplyDelete
  57. I'm excited and grateful to have found your blog! As I said after class, and in the e-mail, I want to be friends with you. I don't always like myself, and I feel like being around you would teach me how to become a person I could like.

    So thanks for being a great teacher and thanks for being a great writer, but mostly thanks for being brave enough to teach and write about these things, because I definitely need to learn.

    Also, I know I'm only 23, but I'm still mending from heartbreak from almost two years ago, and this was the message I've needed. See you in class :)

    ReplyDelete
  58. I'm here because Courtney Kendrick mentioned you and I was intrigued.

    I could relate to so much of what you wrote here. I'm very nearly 34 and very single, a combination which isn't always easy when you're Mormon. As I watched roommates and friends and the loosest of acquaintances dash giddily into matrimony, there were many hopeless and lonely nights for me.

    At some point, I realized that I had a choice, too. I could walk around depressed, questioning why no one was that into ME, or I could accept that I was meant for something else. That there were other blessings in store for me. At least for right now.

    Do I still get lonely? Sure. Do I still dream of the white dress and my family and friends gathered around me in the temple? Of course.

    But am I having the time of my life? You bet.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Yup, was also steered here by a friend. Love, love, love your perspective. Thank you for putting your thoughts together so thoughtfully and so movingly.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Emily,

    Somehow I'm just reading this now. It was beautiful on so many levels and of course this was a special post for me to read. You are amazing. It's like you glow through your words. The intelligence and thoughtfulness of not just your convictions, but of your faith--actual, tangible faith--is part of why I think you are and will continue to be a light to those around you. Keep it up, because in case you didn't know....you're nailing it.

    Love,
    Migs

    ReplyDelete
  61. Your post reminded me of my favorite Hafiz poem:

    http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/25714-Shams-al-Din-Hafiz-Absolutely-Clear

    ReplyDelete
  62. Um- you're amazing. Phenomenal post. Really, really well written. Thank you for your thoughts. I read the NYT article and wasn't totally surprised, but kind of saddened by her reaction. It all comes back to agency, like you're talking about. Well done!!

    ReplyDelete
  63. Wonderful! I read the NYT article several weeks ago, and it left such a bad taste in my mouth. You communicated so much of what I felt in response to the article, what I try to communicate to the young women I serve on a weekly basis: if you love God, show Him by doing what He asked you to do. Even if it doesn't make perfect sense to you or to the people around you.

    Thank you for sharing your joy in choosing to love God in this way.

    ReplyDelete
  64. I live in Seattle and read a review of the NYT article in our local paper. I was stunned, but not surprised at the attention that type of dialogue would garner. The article upset me because for her one, very publicized story, I have DOZENS of friends in their thirties who are smart, beautiful, faithful, active, educated and single.

    I didn't marry until I was almost 29. That was four years ago. Just because I have a husband does not mean that my life miraculously became heartache free.

    I really appreciate how you expressed our purpose - and the power of the atonement. We all have battles we are fighting, many of them are fought quietly where no one witnesses our struggles. Many of our fights are something we face throughout our entire lives.

    Thank you for your post!

    ReplyDelete
  65. Em, how did I miss this amazing post--holy words, my friend. Holy words! Such a description of the whole process! I'm so interested in the many and varied responses. I think when we get to the end of our lives, we'll all be surprised at how similar our experiences really have been--not in the specifics, but in what they have accomplished in our lives. (I first heard that idea explained by a man who had 3 severely handicapped children.) Anyway, thank you for the beautiful words.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Thank YOU so much for everything about this post, it's beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Tags: time and season, hard things, missed expectations

    There is a time and a season for everything. There is a time to work and a time to play and a time to rest. A time to cry and a time to laugh. This life has a little bit of all those things but mostly this life is a time for the hard things. Other lives are meant for bliss.

    Being single is hard. Being married is hard. Having a husband who comes out of the closet after 30 years of marriage or a wife who runs off with a high school friend she met on Facebook is hard (unfortunate stories from friends). Life is full of missed expectations but it's ok because somehow it all works out. Just my thoughts on a great post.

    ReplyDelete
  68. You are wonderful. (Unfortunately) I have never met you, but I can tell from these sentiments what a rare gem you are. I wish you the best for the future and hope you'll continue on being an amazing example.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Kelly, thank you. and thank you for your own loveliness! I just tried to write you a little note on your blog...but then i realized (after I posted) that it was someone named melody... yikes. i hope you come back and read this!

    ReplyDelete
  70. Emilia,
    I also just got to this post indirectly from CJane's blog. What is amazing to me about your response (and I read the NYT article a few weeks ago with a feeling of heartache for that girl and her choices) is how much I relate to a lot of what you said despite being an orthodox Jew, coming from a very different perspective faithwise. But so much of what you (and many comments) mentioned about the mindset toward marriage in Mormon culture I have seen echoed in Orthodox Jewish life... and your commitment to your standards (which again, are similar in many ways to my own) is inspiring. It is good to be reminded how much connects us, across religious bounds, cultural, ethnic ones. Thank you for your words.

    Chana

    ReplyDelete
  71. I am a 49-year old always-been-single Mormon woman. I loved your article. You were able to articulate a lot of what I feel. The one thing I wanted more than anything when I was growing up was to be a mom. I was just so certain that I would have that experience on earth. Well, I haven't. I can attest to the fact that you won't have a different perspective in ten years. If anything, your current perspective will become even more firm over time. This life is temporary and everyone has an experience unique to him or her while here. Sometimes we get distracted by thinking that we need to have the same experience as someone else instead of embracing the experience that God chose for us. God's purpose wasn't to send us to earth to have sex; we're here to see if we will choose to follow Him when we're faced with a choice. I, too, spent time crying the tears and working through the bitterness of wondering what happened to my marriage dreams and why not me. I finally realized that I didn't want one more day of my life being wasted on bitterness and tears. If this is the life that God wants for me, then I want to embrace it and learn the lessons He picked for me. Being single has blessed me with the ability to never be lonely and I am comfortable with growing older and being alone. I enjoy my own company.

    ReplyDelete
  72. It's so interesting reading all these comments because single, married, divorced, it's shocking how everyone feels like they can relate.

    Being a 28 year old single in the heart of Mormonville I relate all too well. I've struggled with finding my place within the church...

    So I guess what I have to say thank you for is, thank you for your words but also your thoughts and the all of the comments give me comfort that I am not alone in this struggle.

    ReplyDelete
  73. You don't know me, a friend sent me this link tonight after I had my heart broken. Thank you for your thoughts, if only because it's nice to be reminded that we aren't alone in the whole messy life thing.

    ReplyDelete
  74. A friend linked to this post and I wanted to thank you for your frank honesty but positive and sincere attitude. Beautiful, well written post. I wish you the very very best.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Emily, this is beautiful. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete

the rules: comment moderation is enabled to protect the innocent.