I can't remember a time when I was so nervous. It was an October Friday afternoon, and I was sitting in a room full of women that I barely knew. I was at a "healing weekend" that was put on by people from the support group I had just found. The support group was specifically for women who were married to men with same-gender-attraction, and though I didn't really contribute much to the group, it was nice to know that I wasn't alone.
Jordan had been to his first healing weekend called Journey Into Manhood a month before I went to mine. And I have never seen him as happy as he was when he came home from that. It wasn't a fix-all solution, and it didn't "cure" him. He is still attracted to men. But he is more confident and comfortable with himself than I have ever seen him. Because of the changes that I had seen in him from his experience, I decided that I would go to the healing weekend for women.
Though it was designed by women in my support group, this weekend was for any woman who wanted to heal in any way. Since I was one of the first to arrive, I quickly picked a seat and watched everyone else file in. I only knew a handful of the women who were there, and I realized right from the start that I could very easily be the youngest person in the room. That realization didn't really help with my nerves. Though I still don't know why, I didn't feel safe in large groups - especially a group of women. I could do one-on-one just fine. But my courage sank as I watched chair after chair being filled.
That first night was nerve-wracking, terrifying, and emotionally distressing as I tried to push myself and be brave. By the time I was shown to my room, I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I wrote in my journal, read my scriptures, and prayed for courage for the following day, because it really felt like I had used up every drop already.
Morning came a little too quickly, but breakfast was delicious. I was able to chat with several people at my table. Though nothing profound was shared, it helped me to relax and let go of some of the fear that I had been holding onto.
I learned a lot about myself that Saturday. The processes that we did helped me to see that in trying to protect myself, I had distanced myself from everyone. I held everyone at bay, because I believed that I needed to be strong on my own before I let anyone close enough to see me. As I pushed myself through each experience, I was amazed and distraught to find that I was stronger when I was vulnerable. I was amazed because I had never known personally that the strength in vulnerability comes from the combined strengths and weaknesses of everyone. Alone, we are weak. Together, we are strong. I was distraught, because I had spent so much of my life denying myself of that strength.
That whole vulnerability thing, it wasn't a "book learning" moment. Process after process pushed me well beyond my comfort zone by giving me the choice to be vulnerable with an individual. And that's what was amazing! I had the choice to be vulnerable. It was me that was doing the actually work of lowering that "protective" wall and showing them who I really was. Though it was frightening and I didn't really want to, I was vulnerable.
And I was safe. I was safe to learn and grow and try.
I learned that most if not all of my insecurities were due to my own thoughts. It wasn't other people telling me that my acne was bad, it was me. It wasn't other people telling me that I didn't belong, it was me. It wasn't other people telling me that I wasn't good enough, it was me.
I learned that my desperate attempts to cope with stress had distanced myself from my body. In trying to control something, I controlled food. In an attempt to be more spiritual, I tried to ignore how I looked.
I learned that I had let fears control me. In answering the question, "What disconnects you from others?", I wrote, "Fear. Fear of being loved, fear of being accepted. Fear of being enough. Fear of being abandoned, rejected, manipulated, mocked, ignored. Fear of trying my hardest to love and having them only be interested in the gossip I might bring them. Not so much the fear of being vulnerable, but the fear of being vulnerable around someone who will use it to control me."
For probably the first time in my life, I recognized those negative thoughts for what they were and learned how to fight them. I saw my body as a beautiful gift that I had a responsibility to care for and love. Here's part of what I wrote in a notebook at one point that day.
"I - in all of my weaknesses and imperfections - am strong. Accepting and acknowledging them and then acting on what I know is right is a source of power. I feel powerful right now. Not that I myself am terribly strong, but that when I am grounded, when I am centered on God's love I am powerful. I can not only do hard things, but I can excel. I can be connected to those around me. It is okay to cry. It is okay to be emotional, and it is okay to be wrong.
"Being vulnerable is a key to the greatest peace I have felt in a long time."
In one day, I went from being totally afraid of the other women in the group to loving and caring for each of them. At first, I was afraid to make any sound. By the time we left, I was comfortable enough to talk with anyone there.
As Jordan picked me up, I was amazed at how in-tune I was with my emotions and my body. I felt everything! I know that seems a little extreme, but it was true. I was aware of the texture of my clothes and the pressure of the seat belt on my torso. I have never experienced emotions so deeply or so quickly.
That in-tune-ness didn't last long. But the things that I learned then have changed my life. Relief Society, the women's organization in my church, became a place filled with friends rather than a place filled with stress and fear. I find courage to share my emotions more easily than I ever did before the weekend. Yes, I still experience fear. But it's not as strong. That weekend showed me that fear can't stop me from doing things.
The things that I worked through were rarely related to me and my husband. Honestly, our marriage has been hard. Totally worth it, but really hard. Yes, the things that I learned during that weekend have helped in my marriage. But the healing that I experienced was for myself in my own struggles.
I promised to not share what processes we did or the experiences of the other women there that weekend. The confidentiality of the weekend is a big part of what made it a safe healing environment. But I hope that sharing my experiences and what I learned will help someone. The name of the weekend was "Daughters of LIght" (this link will take you to a website where you can sign up for or learn about these healing weekends). I love it! In Doctrine and Covenants 67:9, God is called the "Father of lights". So whether intentional or not, the weekend references that we are His children, and we can be filled with His light. Not much is more beautiful than that.