I'm feeling suffocated, boxed-in.
I don't really know how to explain it without going into detail, which in turn may hurt some people. Maybe not personally. Definitely not personally. Rather as a group, as a body. I'm not a person who likes to make others feel sad. Especially, people whom I care about dearly.
I just feel like I can't be myself, I can't be who I am. I can't do things I want to do. Well, I can, but those things are to be kept clandestine. Things that shouldn't even have to be clandestine.
Most of this has to do with morals. I don't find myself to be an immoral person, but there are standards and values that are placed on me that I find to be unrealistic expectations.
Okay, so if you haven't figured it out by now it has do with religion. I'm just going to come out and say it and throw myself under a bus. I can't speak in code and I'm bad at being secretive. I'm a person who's very open and often doesn't know how to shut up. I think the phrase- which I can't remember word-for-word- but involves digging oneself into a deeper hole because one keeps talking and dragging something on, that phrase was made for me.
As most people know I love church. I grew up Baptist. When I say grew up Baptist, I don't mean that my family woke up early on Sundays and went to church. I just happened to go to a Baptist school because the Catholic school which my grandmother tried to place me in wouldn't take me because I was born out-of-wedlock. Coincidentally, even after I stopped attending private school and went to public school whenever I was invited to church with a friend it was always Baptist. I was sort of Baptist-by-association. It was the only denomination I knew, however.
My family were never church-goers, but I have always loved religion. The community, the church ambiance, the scripture. After many, many years of not going to church and a whole life lived never having a church of my own, I decided to go to church. This was August 2012. I wanted church to be a part of the life of my children. I started attending the Baptist church that a friend belonged to. I went every Sunday and loved it to pieces. In the Spring we moved to East Orlando and were now about 45 minutes away from our church. That was a bit farther than I was willing to travel, especially needing to be there by 9:00 a.m. So, I started looking for a church closer to our new home.
One thing led to another (it's a longggg story and very complicated- maybe one day I'll blog about it as a reference for the many people who ask) and I converted to LDS. If you don't know what LDS is, it's The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you still don't recognize that name, you are probably more familiar with the term "Mormon" which is the more common name given to followers of The Church. I dove right in and have loved every minute of it and most things about it.
As an adult convert, not growing up in the church, there are things which sometimes are difficult to grasp or practice. I'm not talking about the scriptures, those I'm cool with. That's probably one of the biggest hurdles for converts, but I never had an issue with that. I feel The Spirit spoke to me and gave me a testimony of The Book of Mormon. My personal hurdle would be The Law of Chasity, I suppose. I'm not even going to go into the sex aspect of it because that's no one's business. There's other things that encompass chastity. For example, no porn. This also is not such an issue for me.
Of course, there's more to porn than videos. What about books? For example, erotica. I've read some erotic novels in the past. It's porn for the mind. Porn, that one sees in their mind's eye. It's not a genre I read from very often. Between the time I picked up my first erotic novel from Border's (sigh, I miss you) and now, I've read a total of four. Within a span of, I don't know, five or six years maybe? I haven't read one since I started going to Baptist church. See, the thing is is that I catalog every book I read through Goodreads. If I read it, it has to be documented. I've been keeping track of my books since January 1, 2009 and there's no looking back now. I'll be doing it for the rest of my life.
So, that means that what I read other people can see. Prior to church, I never had a problem publicly cataloging via Goodreads that I read an erotic novel. Most people have. Going through a family member's bookshelf one day, I discovered that she even had the same erotic trilogy I had read. It's just common and not something women are embarrassed to talk about. Men watch videos, we read books. However, as someone actively involved in church and Christian book clubs on Goodreads, I didn't want to be frowned upon for picking up a new one. Also, it made me feel like I'd be a hypocrite.
I really like Christian romances. I like that they're sweet and usually historical. There's always a happy ending even if there's a miserable beginning. But... I mean, can one read a Christian romance and then the next book they read be an erotica? I know Christians who read erotica, does that make it right? I don't know. Does that make it wrong? I don't know. I believe and I don't like speaking for The Church as I'm a new member and don't fully grasp all the rules and reasoning behind them- but, I do think it's definitely wrong in LDS. Baptist? Eh, probably not so much. Being in the Baptist church my whole life, I find the people to be a lot looser. Which I do like. Church member invites you to a BBQ? Who's bringing the alcohol? Live with your boyfriend? That's cool, enjoy the service. Whereas LDS... polar opposite. I don't even know what happens to people who are found out to be watching porn or reading porn. I think there's some counseling involved and possibly some shunning from what my online research tells me which may or may not be accurate.
Oh God, I don't want to be shunned!
I love church, my ward family, and all my Mormon friends around Central Florida and the US. They are the people whom I have the most respect for and finding out someone is Mormon like me, I have an instant connection to them. The Mormons in my life are the people whom I admire the most. The missionaries visited me today and it uplifted my spirit. When they're praying or teaching me I can almost physically feel the spirit. It's almost like a tiny collection of air resonating in the atmosphere right outside my body. When I find out a friend is having a missionary over I almost always crash their lesson or dinner because I just love being around them.
I'd really hate to disappoint them by reading something unwholesome. But, you have no idea how much it's bothering me. How much since I can't do it I'm thinking about. I've actually purchased a few over the past year and just haven't read them because I have to catalog that I read them on Goodreads. I mean, can I make my Goodreads private? I don't know. Do people do that? Do people have such trashy tastes in books that they make their Goodreads account secret? Or is it just me? Probably just me.
Why is this such an issue for me? Why am I asking so many questions?
I hardly even like erotica. Like I said I've basically read one about once a year since buying my first one. A total of 4 or 5. That should be something I can easily let go. Not like tea or coffee which is harder to let go and even harder to understand. Oh my God, while we're having true confessions of Amanda Caldwell, I drank tea and coffee. I did it. I drank the tea from Chick-Fil-A while eating my breakfast biscuit. I bought the pumpkin spiced latte from RaceTrac before work two weeks ago. It's right there on the surveillance video. It was remarkably good for a gas station coffee. What's worse is I didn't feel bad. Jesus, I wasn't even feeling guilty. While drinking my coffee and talking about extremely violent and sadistic Japanese movies with my co-worker, I thought "do I have a soul?? Am I deviant of some kind??"
I get stressed about this stuff. It sounds so petty, especially to a non-member I'm sure. Coffee. Tea. Books. It sounds petty to me too, but my religion means so much to me. I've talked to a sister from my old ward about this and she says I'm still a baby in the Gospel. That I'm stressing myself out. There's also the temple thing. To go to the temple there's certain expectations one must meet. Again, I'm sure I don't have a full understanding of them. From what I do understand the tea and coffee alone would cut me from that list. So Bishop so-and-so, now you know. I can't lie. I don't want to disrespect the temple by possibly having coffee lingering in my system. I want to be temple worthy. The temple is one of the most beautiful aspects of LDS. But, I also want to be myself and that's my biggest hang up. Not only is tea one of my preferred beverages, but... okay, look I'm a liberated woman. I'm divorced. I've been married. I've had kids. Been there done that, I served my time and I don't necessarily plan to be "pure" for the rest of my life, but at this point I also have no interest whatsoever in marriage. Living with a dude sort of cramps my style. I'm too selfish, which I admit. I don't want to open my closet and see someone else's clothes hanging inside. I don't want to ask someone for their opinion on my bedspread and actually have to take it into account and compromise on something uglier and more masculine. I like the art on my walls, I like the scent in my Scentsy. I just want to visit my sweety, enjoy his company, and come back home to my personal refuge. That may change next week, next month, next year, or maybe never. As of right now, that's where I stand.
What it all boils down to is I just want to be myself. I want to be Amanda and not feel like Amanda will be frowned-upon. I want to read a dirty book. I want to go the temple. I want to drink a mojito with my girlfriend. I want to have the respect of my ward family. I want to have a cup of NON-HERBAL hot tea while reading a good book. I want church people to like me and I never want to stop going to church or leave LDS, the religion I love so much. It's not even just books or beverages or relationships. Music, movies, television, even poetry. I love the church and the scriptures, but there's a lot of tastes and preferences I have that don't always align with them. I know Mormons are real people too, so maybe everyone is struggling with something similar to me.
I just had to get that out of my system because it's been at the forefront of my mind for days now.