Living with ideals

The first thing on my agenda in Davis was a lunch with some of the current graduate students. One of them asked me a question about my last name and my heritage, to which I replied that it was my husband's last name. That got me some fairly strange looks. Then there was the fact that I didn't order coffee after lunch with all of them. And then there was the awkwardness (more than once during the last few days) of trying to explain why I lived in Spain for over a year and didn't see any movies, go to any plays, or study at the university. Oh, and the fact that I don't drink wine and even though I'm not quite thirty I have been married for almost seven years and have two kids. Man, I am such a weirdo.

I lived in Utah for so long that I became very comfortable in not having people think some of the things I do are strange. It was challenging this week to be back in an area where people questioned my choices and I had to explain "I'm a Mormon" (yeah, I know we should say LDS, but Mormon feels more comfortable when I barely know people and don't want to explain a lot). My students that I teach know I'm a Mormon, but they've usually been fairly accepting; I think it's because they didn't really find out until we'd gotten to know each other over the course of the semester.

When I am in social situations that involve things like coffee, I do feel uncomfortable. As I've said on here before, I don't like standing out. I also don't want people to feel like I'm judging them negatively for their choices. I'm going to have to relearn how to deal graciously with difference. As I was pondering this last night, I read this interesting article in the New York Times. It's about Holocaust survivors who emigrated to the United States shortly after the Second World War. One of the couples profiled ran into difficulty because the husband could not change his work schedule to accommodate his Sabbath observance. Although quitting his job could not only mean a loss of income but also deportation, he took a chance and quit. He ended up getting another job and went on to have a successful career in engineering. Now looking back over fifty years later, his wife said:

“It is worth living with ideals, even though it’s sometimes difficult. It’s worth fighting for a meaningful life.”

That quote from her really gave me hope. Even though sometimes it's difficult for me to keep living the gospel when so many people around me don't, it is what make my life meaningful. My testimony is very important to me and I will keep choosing what I feel is right, even if it makes my life awkward sometimes. I hope that in fifty years I can look back and say that I have lead a meaningful life.

Comments

Th. said…
.

If you're taking guesses from the audience, mine is: You will, you will.
Miss Hass said…
I agree and hope the same for me.
Anonymous said…
When I'm in a coffee shop with people drinking coffee, I just order a mint tea, or a steamed milk with flavoring, or an Italian soda. And I don't insult the plight of the Jews in the process.
Mr. Fob said…
Well, it's a good thing you're so above insulting people, Anonymous. Thank you for sharing your great wisdom with us.
Anonymous said…
I don't mind insulting people at all. I just don't feel comfortable claiming that the plight of the Jews is similar to that of my avoidance of caffeine.
FoxyJ said…
The Jews believe that God has asked them to start observing the Sabbath at sundown on Friday. Observing this can cause some problems with their lives. I believe that God has asked me to avoid caffeine, and this causes some problems in my life. I really don't see how making a comparison between my attempts to follow my religion and the attempts by a fellow believer is insulting to that believer. More than anything, I was expressing my admiration for his ability to live according to the dictates of his conscience.
Earth Sign Mama said…
Um...let's all just take a deep breath. I believe this blog is about choosing to follow the tenets of one's religion despite obstacles, large or small. Sabbath keeping, dietary laws, etc. I detect no insults.
Anonymous said…
I was just trying to point out that some of us have more choices than holocaust survivors may have.

(By the way, I would post non-anonymously if I had one of the permitted "identities"... though I don't know what that would prove.)
Mr. Fob said…
You realize the analogy she was drawing had absolutely no connection to the Holocaust, right? The connection was between a Jewish man's decision to find a job that allowed him to have the Sabbath off and her decision to follow her own religion's rules. She presents this man as a good example of living up to one's own ideals, an example that she is trying to follow. I don't see how that's insulting.
Anonymous said…
I appreciate that you respect his vigor for living according to his beliefs, but did you notice how comfortable he was with it? He quit his job.

If you really believe in your religious restrictions, and you've been living with them your whole life, why are you so afraid to embrace them rather than becoming nervous about exhibiting them?
FoxyJ said…
Oh, and if you want to show your name you just have to click on the name/URL link and type it in. I personally like knowing who I'm talking to.
Esther said…
Ok, thanks!
Snarky MorMom said…
For what it's worth. . .
(Which may be nothing). . .

I really liked this post and related to it.

The End.
"I appreciate that you respect his vigor for living according to his beliefs, but did you notice how comfortable he was with it? He quit his job.

If you really believe in your religious restrictions, and you've been living with them your whole life, why are you so afraid to embrace them rather than becoming nervous about exhibiting them?"

I've been thinking about this comment for a while this morning and thought I might add my thoughts. First of all we don't really know what the inner thoughts of the gentleman. He did quit his job, but who's to say it was a simple choice without thought? Likely it was a choice that was carefully considered. It is easy to say if you believe such then act as such. I don't believe that faith or belief is that simple. It reminds me of the argument back in YW that we should make the choice once and be done with it. As I've gotten older I've at times reevaluated what I believe. Being concious and thoughtful of the choices we make gives more meaning to those choices.
Kristeee said…
Wow, so I didn't find anything controversial in your introspective post. I rather enjoyed your thoughts. I hope that I would have faith as strong as that gentleman in the same situation.

I'm excited for you to embark on your journey towards being Dr. Foxy. It'll be an adventure, for sure. Good luck with all the planning!
skyeJ said…
I know how it feels to think you stick out like a sore thumb. I'm a Mormon working at Planned Parenthood. I'm 28 and single when I feel like going to church. (I feel less accepted at church than I do at work, sadly enough. Wish it was the same both places.) I fit nowhere, its official. But I've stopped feeling the need to explain myself because I realized that most people just don't really notice, even though I do. There's nothing wrong with living your convictions. I have found that most people don't really notice what I do or don't do unless I draw attention to it. (I tend to order hot chocolate at coffee places because they typically make it really well. Mmmm... All those special coffees mean good chocolate.) The point is, you don't have to call attention to the fact that you're Mormon, but that doesn't mean you aren't living your religion. Eventually it comes up somehow as people get to know you because it is such an important part of your life and culture.
jana said…
You've just experienced many of the reasons that I don't hang out much with my grad school cohort: I've been married for nearly as long as most of them have been alive, I had two kids, I don't party, etc. If you work hard, all of that won't matter and you'll be respected in your program. But, of course, you might not be in the 'in-group' that's all drinking together after seminars.
barb said…
wow - as a mormon, i do understand being in situations that bring differences in our choices to the forefront.

but i am still surprised that people don't see that drawing a comparison to a holocaust survivor whose employer is persecuting him for his religion could be seen as diminishing his hardships.

i'm glad you found inspiration, but i don't feel like choosing not to have a coffee should be causing you these kinds of social hardships. have a tea, or some water...i'm sure not all of those people choose to have coffee or wine every time it's presented to them.

while i think it's easy for you to see these differences magnified, it seems somehow self-centered to assume that everyone in a group is only noticing your choices.
Mr. Fob said…
Um, Mormons are taught to "liken the scriptures unto [themselves]," to learn from stories of ancient prophets and of Jesus himself. If someone talks in Sunday School about learning from Jesus' submissiveness in allowing himself to be crucified and how that example helps them be obedient to Heavenly Father through their own (much smaller and less significant) trials, no one accuses them of being "self-centered" or "diminishing" Jesus. Why then is everyone (by which I mean two random lurkers) suddenly accusing FoxyJ of blaspheming the Holocaust by daring to gain some insight from a Jewish man's experience? Get off your damn high horse, people.
Cricket said…
What some people will do for a few extra comments...



:)



(I'm off to parallel my enslavement by taking care of a dog to the enslavement of Negros)
Beautiful post, FoxyJ. For me, I think some of the discomfort comes from our history. No, I'm not sure how to explain the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Or Blacks not getting the Priesthood until the late 70's. Or polygamy (though I wouldn't be here without it). When people find out I'm a Mormon--usually because of something inadvertent: my husband's work as a groundskeeper at the temple, my oldest son's unusual outside of Utah name, or some other small social convention that you don't observe--I never am quite sure what to expect. We have a history of "otherness" and persecution. Mormons are taught never to forget that there was a genocide order put out against us: and though it was 150 years ago, it is a reality.

And while most people are perfectly friendly about my Mormon-ness, I've had the uncomfortable experiences of moms walking away from me at playgrounds, being cursed off of doorsteps and told, in no uncertain terms, that I was going straight to hell for my beliefs. So when you say, "I'm a Mormon," you just never know what you're going to get. I'm not afraid or ashamed of my beliefs, but I have to admit to sometimes being afraid of what ammunition others will think that can attack me with because of their perception of my beliefs.

And for those Holocaust survivors, the physical mark tatooed on their arms and the spiritual marks engraved in their souls . . . these things make me realize just how untested my own faith is regardless of how sophisticated I think I am. I wonder how strong I am? Yet, my human-ness makes me hope I don't really have to find out.

Keep living with your ideals, though despite what the "Ensign" stories tell us, you probably won't have many converts ;). Still, people will respect your convictions, if for no other reason than that they respect YOU.
I'm ok with most of my differences because I was raised in low member areas. However, I do find that it seems that everytime my husband had/has a grad school/alumni function to take me to I am pregnant... again. I am glad to be blessed with so many children (pregnant with #5) and I've never really gotten BAD responses, but. But, I get tired of the rolled eyed, "Wow, I could never do that!" comment that seems to say so much more (like, I could never stay home barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen like that). I'm sure most of it is in my head, but it does get a bit taxing to have to explain myself to so many people in one evening (meaning answering so many questions). I often feel like I should print all my answers on a t-shirt and wear it so I will be free to talk about other things, like my interests, my abilities, the weather, etc.
P.S. I never got the idea you were equalizing your situation with a Holocaust victim's, but that you found comfort in the fact that you are not alone in making difficult choices for your religion. You are honoring this man by saying that his story helps you.

You don't have to suffer the holocaust to get inspiration and comfort from their amazing experiences and stories.

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