In your twenties it's unmentionable, unthinkable, unnecessary. Of course you'll get married. Of course you'll have babies. Of course, of course, of course. It's God's plan for all of his daughters. That's a given. So you go to college, because girls need education too, knowing that every tid-bit of knowledge you gleam from school will one day help you be a better wife and mother. You pray that God sends you someone soon.
And then you graduate.
And you're still not married so you give a wild shout-out to God, "I will serve a mission!", because you know idleness is the tool of Satan and God must want you to serve his other children before you have your own. So you go, and you serve, and you love those you work with. And you pray that God sends you someone when you get home.
And then you come home.
And no one was at the airport with a ring and a promise, so you set your standards high, and you attend the temple every week, because you want to keep yourself on a spiritual high so when Mr. Right comes along you are ready to commit for all time and eternity. And you get a job, one that isn't too serious, because once you're married and have babies you'll be staying home anyway. So no need to inconvenience the company you work for...it's all just temporary. And you pray to God that he puts someone in your life, so your life can start.
And then temporary turns into permanant
And you're still not married. So you go back to school for another degree and you work even harder. Hard working, independent women are more attractive to hard working independent men anyway. So you work and you start to see how maybe you're path is one that includes a husband, children, and a job. At first that idea feels horrible, a job is so menial, so NOT a part of God's grand plan for his daughters. But the more you work the more you realize you're good at what you do. You feel a sense of pride climbing the corporate ladder, even if, you tell yourself, it's still just temporarily permanant. And you pray to God that there is someone who will notice you're worth their time.
And time passes.
And you're still not married. So you get a passport and you travel. And you meet people from all over the world. And you start to realize that there are a hundred different paths for women, a hundred paths that were never even discussed as you grew up. And you see that women are happy, career women, childless women, single women, and a part of you starts to feel scared. "I don't want to be happy and alone" you beg and reason with God. But you embrace those you meet and fall in love with what they bring to your life. A life that is quickly becoming something unrecognizable, something you aren't prepared for. And you pray to God that one of those lives isn't meant to be your own.
And then you turn 30.
And you're still not married. So you start to buy all of the things your mom always told you you'd receive at your
wedding reception. Dishes, nice towels, appliances. And you invest in
impractical furniture, large overstuffed couches and armchairs covered
in hard to care for colors and fabrics. You surround them with things
that define you like photos of excursions and paintings you purchased in
Europe. Your cupboards fill with handmade dishes, purchased from an
80-year-old potter who dug the clay out of a small Kentucky hill then
delicately formed into one-of-a-kind bowls and pitchers. And you look at the care and simplicity molded into those dishes and you realize that the stuff in our life isn't just stuff, it's a part of your life. The life you've built by yourself, alone. It's not how you ever imagined you'd build your life, but you're proud of it. Proud that you have the ability to take care of yourself. And at that moment part of you starts to die. The part that has spent decades believing that you need someone else to make you whole. Someone else to fill your life with stuff. And you pray to God to forgive you for being worldly, and that someone will come into your life that fits as nicely as the bowls in the cupboard.
And then you fall in love.
And he hates your independence. He hates how you change the flat car tire instead of calling him to come to the rescue. He hates how you know how to change wiper blades and do basic plumbing. He hates that you drive a car with a manual transmission. He hates your lack of a need for him. So you change. Working to become dependent in a way you don't trust. And you succeed. You replace your independence with deep, abiding, passionate love and trust. He becomes the air you breathe, the reason why you wake. A dream become reality. And you pray to God that it never ends.
And then it ends.
And you find yourself gasping for air at a bottomless, light-less pit of despair and anguish. And you pray to die because the heartache is too big. You're too shattered. And you fill with a clawing ache for your independence. So in a last ditch effort to save yourself you do something hard. Something you don't want to do. Something that will make you something, someone. Something that you hope will be your salvation. And you pray to God that it's the right decision and will lead you back to life.
And you move.
And you start over.
And you go back to school.
And you turn 35.
And all of a sudden your aging body's biological alarm clock start blaring in your brain, that primal dual- bell, can't-find-the-damn-knob-to-turn-it-off, grappling-in-the-dark kind of alarm. It fills you with panicked sadness and a thousand deaths as you realize all the dreams that will never live. The excited squeals of soon-to-be grandparents, the baby showers, the nursery, the anxious excitement of your changing body that miraculously gives whatever it needs to nourish the heartbeat carefully nestled in that most sacred room you've carried since your own creation. The cherubic cheeks and newborn nuzzles, the hilarity of chaos caused by one little person. The first step, the first day of school, the first date. It's a hoped for memory massacre. So you take that alarm and in an act of self-preservation you rip it from your soul and throw it back into the universe. And you stop praying to God for a family.
Friends have babies, and you rejoice in their excitement. And you relish your own, breathing in the reminders of freedom: you get to sleep in Saturday mornings and have ice cream for dinner any. time. you. want. And you tell yourself you would have been a horrible mom anyway, your impatient, selfish, demanding self was never really meant to have kids. They smell. They are dirty. They take up so much time, and energy, and money. "Whew", you breathe at the latest news that your best friend is pregnant with her fourth, a tinge of jealousy rising in that place in your heart that holds your most vulnerable hurts, "I'm glad it's her and not me". Then you tuck yourself in bed, far later than is necessary, just to prove that it's a treat to be childless.
And then you fall in love again.
And he's amazing. He's someone you've known since your youth. He understands the trauma you carry from the culture in which you were raised. He likes your adventurous side, your independence. He plans a life with you. Talks of marriage and moving to far off countries. And you pray to God, telling him that you're heart won't survive another break.
And it gets broken anyway.
So you stop praying. You stop hoping. You stop believing in the doctrine of your childhood. You accept that your life was never meant to go the Mormon way. You were never meant to have a husband. You were never meant to have kids. You were meant for something else. What, you do no know. But something. So you push the idea of love out of your heart and you throw it in the trash. You walk away with determination. You make a vow on your 37th birthday to be done. Done with dating. Done with hoping. Done with the tears and overwhelming sense of inferiority. Done with lugging around a broken heart. So you let it go.
And then someone finds it. And he picks it up, brushes it off, and hands it back to you. "I don't want it" you tell him. "I'm done with it". So he tucks it away, carefully, in his pocket. You find that you've grown difficult, demanding, stubborn. And he stays. You find fault, and flaws. And he stays. Bit by gentle bit he tries to hand you pieces of yourself back. And you fight it. He offers you all of those past hopes and dreams in one beautifully wrapped messy package. And you panic, realizing how absolutely numb and broken you are. And how you might need God, but you have no idea if he even exists, or if he'd even listen if he did.
You love with what fragments of your self remain, knowing your offering is measly, guarded, hopeless. You search frantically for the parts of yourself that use to know how to love. That use to know how to feel. And you can't find them.
And you discover a whole new kind of lost.