Something amazing happened this weekend... or I guess... something amazing has been happening for a long time, and I got to SEE it this weekend.
I mentioned in my last post that I forgot about LDS general conference. That in itself is amazing. However, there's more.
They tell you to listen to conference and think about yourself. Apply it all to YOU. I used to do that. I didn't listen and think about what someone else needed to hear... or if I did, I beat myself up big.
"Jen, how dare you think that someone ELSE needs to hear this... that someone ELSE needs to change?? Just the fact that you THOUGHT that says that you are not a good human being. YOU need to change! Conference is for YOU. Change YOU!"
So, I'd try to apply every single word to ME. Which meant, if they said "give more to the poor" it didn't matter if I gave everything I could give, I needed to give more. If they said, "be less selfish and more forgiving," I looked for ways to be less selfish and more giving.
I tried so hard to do everything they said to do, and then felt horrible that I couldn't be and do everything.
I remember conference three years ago... My friend Amanda heard that it was going on, and called me from across the country. She was concerned. She was not the first to tell me that the speakers (both at conference and at church) aren't talking to ME, but she said it in a way that made sense to me. "Most of the people in the world need to hear that they could give more, serve more, and think of themselves less, but that is not YOU. Most of the people need a good reminder every six months to think about someone else, because they only do it once every six months. You spend most of your time thinking about everyone else."
She went on to compare general conference to a presentation she was giving on eating disorders to RA's at the college: Knowing that she was talking to people who liked to help others, and were
college students, she figured there would be about five people in the audience with
disordered eating. She was worried about giving certain suggestions or
saying certain things, because she didn't want to say something that
would hurt those five. She came to the conclusion that the sixty-five
needed to hear what she had to say, and she had to hope that the five
would be okay. Her analogy made sense. The leaders talked to the majority... The healthy thing to do would be to recognize that what they are saying is harmful to me, and stay away.
For the past three years, I've known that their words didn't apply to me... I've known that I am self-sacrificing to a fault... I've understood that I would sacrifice myself, my wants, my happiness, my life to make others happy... And that wasn't good... but still, every time I heard someone talk about forgiveness and selfishness and selflessness and service, I went crazy inside my head.
I didn't listen to conference, and it's quite possible that had I listened, it would have made me just as crazy as it always has... but when I heard what Uchdorf talked about, and what he said about forgiveness and holding grudges and loving, it didn't make me crazy.
It made me think, "Am I holding grudges? Are there changes I want to make? Are there people I am not forgiving that it would benefit me to do so?" I thought about it. I decided that there were a few places I'd like to make changes. Small adjustments that will make my life more full. I also thought about BJ's kids and BJ's ex, and I wondered what they would get out of it... Would they think about the way they are treating him? Would they think that HE needed to change? Would any of it cross their minds? I wondered how it would effect others who were super self-sacrificing... would they keep trying to sacrifice themselves in order to make other people feel good... I wondered about some of the abusive people who were listening... Would they use this talk to invalidate and hurt more people?
For the first time, I didn't let some stranger tell me what I should be thinking, feeling, doing. For the first time, I didn't give him authority in my brain. It didn't go in and take over so fast that I was left helpless... I thought about it, made a choice about what was important to ME. I got to choose. It feels amazing... I also got to wonder about the rest of the world without beating myself up. Words affect the people who listen and believe, and it's okay to wonder how the words will affect others.
Sunday night, I went to dinner at my parents and I was happy. Connected to myself and to them. On general conference Sunday. Today I feel peaceful and... happy. On the Monday after conference weekend. This is BIG. And awesome.
(And just to clarify, that doesn't mean I'm going back... It just means it doesn't all trigger the hell out of me. I'm pretty sure my brother said it best when he invented a new drinking game. He doesn't drink, but he decided a good game would be, "Everyone takes a shot whenever they say something that would make Jen cranky." EVERYONE would get pretty drunk off that.)