Object Relations

I went to the temple yesterday, and it was a powerful experience for me.

There are some experiences that always come with a temple visit: the presence of loved ones on the other side of the veil, the respite from the heaviness of mortality, and the rest from the battle in which we are constantly engaged.

There are blessings that come, having to do with ordinance work for ancestors.  There are teachings about where we came from, why we are here, and what becomes of us after this life.  There are tears and prayers and silence and white-ness.

There is also the reunion of loved ones we don’t often see, our temple family that so often are off serving in their own way, caring for their own families, and fulfilling their own ministries.  But when we meet at the temple, there is love to exchange and hugs to give and smiles that heal.

Sometimes these reunions and blessings and experiences overlap into very temporal lessons, even if all things are also spiritual.

This particular trip was a sucker punch that I needed.

I was in the foyer having a snack (the temple always has the best snacks), and overheard a woman telling a friend how she really wants to be close to her daughter-in-law, but the girl is really tight with her family and fears making her own mother jealous for the time spent away with her in-laws.  The woman was truly grieving the strained relationship she has with the daughter-in-law because she felt they had the potential to be very close.  She spoke about the efforts she has made to be patient and love her well while the daughter-in-law’s family continues to progress.

I realized that was me.

I mean, not really, but it applies, and it was a correction that I needed.

We all have hundreds of mothers, really, and one of our most mature things to do is not give up our need for mothering but instead learn to be wise and discern clearly who are good and healthy mothers for us.

But because of my running away in high school, my mother was very sensitive to me having mentor-mother-friends and my spending time with them.

Those were my own consequences, and I tried hard to be respectful of her feelings, and I understood the legitimacy of her emotional needs in our historical context.

Also, she was a woman who could not be replaced. By anybody. Ever.

Sometimes it helped when she had her own mother-mentor-sister-friends, like her best friend Jo, that were also mother-mentor-friends to me.

It was a lot of work to raise me, we all agree.

But I think that I took this too literally for too long, and applied it too generally into sometimes thinking that because I had caused such messes that I did not deserve friendships.

I learned to carefully choose good and healthy friends who are safe and kind and progressing in their own beautiful lives, but then I too often hide from them for fear of contaminating them, I think.

Nathan and I are both very introverted, and with my bionic ears I am easily and quickly overstimulated by the noise of groups or social settings.

But I think my little heart is tender and raw, too, and that this has become part of the challenge.

I have really, really good in-laws.  They are amazing.  I love them so much.

But I think our very new relationship has been challenged by these layers and the death of my mother.  Not in a drama way, but in an I-can-do-better-way.

I think I sometimes think I don’t deserve them.

I think I sometimes think enjoying them is being disloyal to my mom.

I think I sometimes think it stings to hang out with Nathan’s awesome parents when my parents are dead.

I think grief is a complicated thing, and that sometimes it knocks the wind out of me when I am not looking, even when nothing is wrong.

I think things will feel better after we are able to do her temple work.

I also have discovered something that has surprised me, which is that my parents getting divorced when I was little was way harder than I ever realized it was.  I think sometimes I almost don’t quite have the skills to be loyal to my mom and also love another set of parents.  It’s hard work for me, even when it is all good and fairytale-perfect.

(I wonder at the timing of this lesson, as we prepare to become foster parents to little ones who grieve the separation from parents for all kinds of reasons.)

Grief is hard, in any form.  I do sometimes (a lot) make mistakes (frequently).

I really do my miss my mom.  A lot.

But also, it is true that I love Nathan a lot, and that we are really happy.  It is true that he still has his parents, and that they are awesome.

It is also true that I cannot eat her food for her, or wear her clothes for her, or isolate myself from the world when she is no longer here in a mortal kind of way.

It is true that it is time to uncover my hair, wear some colors, and pick out clothes that fit me and my personality.  It is true that I have a brand new husband, and we are starting a brand new life together.  It is true that he has family, and that they have been nothing but kind and good to me – so often welcoming me even while Nathan is out of town.

It is true that in the temple yesterday, I felt very specific revelation about layers of my experiences that I had been frustrated with but unable to piece together.

It is true that in the temple yesterday, I felt very specific correction in regards to my own behavior that includes letting the atonement be applied to wounds old and new, letting go of my Helen Keller temper tantrums, sorting grief into the grief pile and love into the love pile, and feeling empowered by the ultimate truth: which is that I am a daughter of my Father-in-Heaven, and He loves me and I love Him.

That’s where the peace is, internally.

It’s not external.  It’s not about circumstances.  It’s not about whether or not I have permission to breathe.

She’s not here for me to wait on permission to return to  my own life, and I won’t get in trouble for trying.

It’s object relations of the spiritual sort, and it means that everything is going to be okay.

I felt such an increase of love, such peace flow through me, such deep love fill me that tears fell down my face as I cried crying tears of the crybaby sort.

Even touching the wall
and outside –
walls tall and thick –
and the temple’s,

there was power there.

I felt it in my hands,
and it shot up my arms
like electricity.

Because it is real.
He is real.
Family is real.

Family is good,
very good.

And that’s okay.

Posted in Healing, Life permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Object Relations — 1 Comment

  1. I loved this post and wanted to just say thanks for sharing it. It gave me so much to think about. I’m really happy for the healing you experienced. I love moments like that!