Spreading the Gospel

I’m so excited and honored to be featured on Youshare Project today!  Youshare Project is a place to read and share personal stories that connect us in meaningful ways.  It is about seeing other perspectives and learning about humanity outside of the small circles of our personal lives.  I love their philosophy of bringing people together through storytelling.  So please, go check them out and be sure to read my story while you’re there.Youshare-Award-FNL-v1-200x2001

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Tender Mercies

I woke up this morning to a beautiful blue sky. Birds were singing, the sun was shining and the dog was pawing at the back door to go outside.  I opened the door to let him do his business.  As I closed the door to get back to my morning routine, I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye.  It was my crème brulee torch, sitting outside next to the grill.  We had grilled out the night before and we sometimes use the torch to light the grill.  I subconsciously brushed it off and went about my morning, getting the kids cereal and milk, picking up messes that I had been too lazy to clean up the night before, and getting everyone ready to start the day.  I had a slightly uneasy feeling as I went about my chores and was prompted to look back outside.  When I did, I again saw the crème brulee torch, but this time, I felt strongly inspired to bring it inside right now instead of waiting until another time when it would be more convenient for me.  I followed the prompting.

I went about the rest of my morning, completely forgetting about the situation with the torch.  I loaded the kids up in the car and we went to the gym.  It wasn’t until we were headed home from the gym that I realized why God saw fit to intervene in my life this morning.  Seemingly out of nowhere, the heavens opened and the rains came down.  The rains came down hard.

Oh the peace and joy I felt at knowing the God was looking out for me.  I was so grateful that I had been in tune enough to feel His promptings this morning.  I know it was due to the fact that I had not let contention into our home this morning so I was able to be in touch with the spirit.  Now I won’t have to suffer from a soggy topped custardy treat.  We will be blessed to have the indulgent crunch of a flame-caramelized sugar crust on our crème brulee.  I will not have to worry about a torch that would have been ruined had I not been spiritually prepared to see the hand of the Lord in my daily life. And for that I am eternally grateful.  #tendermercies

Maybe I should go back to church next fast Sunday so I can let my light shine and inspire others to be amazing, just like me, so that God will sprinkle just a bit more privilege down on their lives, just as He did mine. 😉

Also, here is a recipe for the most amazing chocolate crème brulee EVER!  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/chocolate-creme-brulee-recipe.html#

We Need To Set Some Boundaries 

It’s Saturday night, 9:30.  My husband is out of town on business.  My mother-in-law texts:  “Do you want me to pick up the kids in the morning and take them to church?  I thought you could use a break.”

As I read the text, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I’ve seen lots of exmos on the Internet talk about the need to set boundaries with their TBM family members.  I’ve read horror stories about TBM grandparents secretly having their grandkids baptized behind the parents’ backs or interrogate the kids to find out if their exmo parents drink alcohol or coffee or tea.  My story is not so dramatic (thank goodness!) but really got me thinking about the need to set some boundaries with our families.

A few months back we sat down with my husband’s parents and told them that we no longer believe the truth claims of the church.  They obviously knew something was up, but we finally told them what it was.  The awkward Sunday morning texts of “should we save you a seat?” have slowly tapered off since that conversation, but that just led to these new offers to take the kids for us.  Usually we have an excuse because we have planned something fun to do instead of church, but this time, I had no excuse.  I could make one up, but I didn’t want to lie.  The more I thought about how I wanted to respond, the more frustrated I got.  My response ended up being a simple “no, thanks.”

What I really wanted to say was “yes, I could use a break.  I could almost always use a break.  Can I take you up on your offer to help out sometime besides Sunday morning?  The kids are actually the main reason I don’t want to go to church.  I really don’t want them there.  I might not mind going to church myself every now and then if it wasn’t for the kids.  I miss my friends from church.  I miss the feeling of community.  I think maybe I could even find uplifting messages in the talks and lessons.  But I know how to separate the crazy stuff from the edifying stuff.  My kids aren’t capable of making that distinction yet.  I don’t want them sitting through primary being taught that they are better than everyone else just because they were born into a Mormon family.  I don’t want them taught that modesty is all about the length of a sleeve or a skirt or that their value lies in their ability to repress all things sexual.  I don’t want them to be taught obedience over critical thinking.  I don’t want them to be taught that their parents or their parents’ friends are bad people for drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol.  I don’t want them to be taught about a God who would never let a prophet lead the church astray and then never mention polygamy, polyandry, the priesthood ban, or sketchy banking schemes.  So, no, I don’t want you to pick up my kids and take them to church.  I know you mean well and you think you are being that praiseworthy grandmother who takes it upon herself to make sure that even though her child has strayed, she can at least make sure her grandchildren are raised in the church (you know the one…there’s at least one of these grandmothers in every ward).  Or maybe you just think its an easy time for you to watch the kids for me since most of that time they are in primary and you don’t even have to watch them yourself.  Whatever your motivations, please don’t ask anymore.  If I want the kids at church, I will bring them myself.  But don’t hold your breath.”

In defense of my mother-in-law, and for full disclosure, she does offer to help me out with the kids at other times too.  For the most part, we really enjoy living so close to them, but its definitely time to set some boundaries.

Changing Moralities: Did I Lose My Morals When I Lost My Religion?

I’ve been wrestling with my conscience lately and I’ve decided its time to hash out my feelings and thoughts in writing.  Throughout this whole journey of losing my faith and coming to terms with life outside of Mormonism writing has been my therapy.  For me, putting my thoughts on paper gives them credence.  It helps me solidify my views and helps me gain confidence that my opinions are valid.  So today I am tackling the extremely controversial topic of abortion.  

I think it is important to start with the disclaimer that I am not 100% set in my opinions on this topic, or really any topic for that matter.  One benefit of leaving religion is that you learn to be more open to being wrong.  I have not researched abortion at all so I’m going from my gut feelings right now.  There may be arguments that could still change my mind either way.

While I was a believing Mormon, and blindly agreed with any church teaching, I had no moral dilemmas when it came to the topic of abortion.  I was okay with it in cases of incest or rape or when the mother’s life was in danger, but otherwise I was completely against it.  When someone would argue that a woman should have the right to choose because it is her body I just fell back to the usual excuse of “unless she was raped, she should have made her choice before she had sex.”  I still agree with this partially.  I do believe that if you are not prepared to be responsible about sex, you shouldn’t be having it.  (But my opinion on the matter is not stopping anyone from having irresponsible sex…)  If you are irresponsible about sex, are you really going to be responsible about raising a child?  But the more I’ve thought about the whole abortion issue, the more I’ve realized that abortion is not all about irresponsibility like I had previously assumed.  In my mind, the only people having abortions were young, unwed, sexually promiscuous women.  And maybe that is the majority.  But its not the whole story.

I probably wouldn’t have given the issue too much more thought except that I just recently had my third child.  Having a third child was a big decision for me and my husband.  The hardest decision we had with our first two was when we wanted to have them.  We already knew we wanted at least 2 kids.  When the decision became not when to have another kid, but if we should have another kid, the narrative changed.  And when we no longer believed God wanted us to have lots of kids or that any pregnancy that might have happened was part of the divine plan for our family, the narrative drastically changed.

No more belief that there are spirits waiting to come to our family.  No more eternal family dynasties to be built.  No more prescribed stance on issues to keep me from thinking for myself.

So my husband and I finally decided that another child was something we actually did both want.  We were slightly hesitant, because as anyone with at least one child can relate to, we were still struggling to keep up with the kids we already had.

My first two pregnancies were fairly easy, but this last pregnancy was definitely the hardest. By the end of it, I undeniably appreciated the argument that a woman should have a choice about what she wants to put her body through more than I had before.  You see, even an “easy” pregnancy is not easy.  The physical and mental things a woman’s body goes through during and after pregnancy are not pleasant.  So when someone argues that a woman with an unwanted pregnancy should “just” carry the child and give it up for adoption, here’s what they should keep in mind: morning sickness (from nausea to vomiting to food aversions to smell aversions, etc), headaches, heartburn, sore back, sore feet, sore breasts, sore everything, exhaustion, constipation, gas and bloating, swelling everywhere, feet growing out of your shoes, acne, gagging when you brush your teeth or wear a shirt whose collar even brushes against your throat—these are totally normal and MILD side effects of pregnancy.  Then comes the labor and delivery.  I’m sure most people are familiar with the horror stories here, so I won’t go into the details.  But don’t forget the after-birth issues like post partum depression, breast engorgement and mastitis, bleeding for weeks and even months after delivery, stiches, hair loss, uncontrollable emotional outbursts, stretch marks, weight problems, more acne, more constipation, sore vagina and butt, etc.  9+ months is a long time to be miserable.  (I know it is not miserable for all women.  I know a few crazy ladies who say they love being pregnant.  But from my experience, that is the exception, not the rule!)

I knowingly chose to put myself through these things.  I knew it would be a huge sacrifice and I knew it would be worth it for my family.  But a woman who is not prepared to make this huge sacrifice should not be vilified.  It is not selfish or vain to say “no, I don’t want to have to go through that.”  I think women who do put their children up for adoption are true heroes.  But that doesn’t mean that the women who choose a different route are weaker or less brave or don’t care about others.  Having a say in what happens to you and your body is something that should be respected.  You should have a choice.

Next comes the argument of when does life begin.  As a Mormon, that was easy.  I believed in the pre-existence.  I believed that all people lived as spirits before being born into this world to receive a body.  There was no question in my mind that abortion meant you were killing a child.  A child that was meant to be a part of your life.  Without belief in the pre-existence, I don’t know when I think life begins.  From my experiences bearing children, here is how I personally see it. I didn’t feel anything for at least the first 5 weeks of pregnancy.  There could have been a baby growing or there could have been nothing.  I was not emotionally attached to anything more than the idea of a child.  Once I did feel something, it was not a child I felt.  It was nausea and headaches.  By this point, I had gone to the OB and had seen the initial ultrasound that yes, there was actually “something” growing inside me.  But with the first two kids, all I saw was a speck.  With my last child however, I had my first ultrasound at 11 weeks.  I was very surprised to see that the thing growing inside me actually looked like a baby already.  I never felt any of my children move until about 20 weeks.  So for me personally, I guess I feel like “life” started somewhere around 10 weeks.  But I had planned for and wanted these children, so I can’t say if I would feel differently if my pregnancies were not conceived under the same hopeful circumstances.

Then came the OB appointments were we needed to decide which tests we wanted to have done that could show certain genetic conditions.  I decided I didn’t want to know.  I really respect my husband supporting my decision on this.  I never really opened the topic up to much discussion, because honestly, I didn’t want to have to think about it or deal with the hard questions at the time.  In hindsight, I hate to think of the pain and internal struggle that less-than-ideal test results would have caused.  I have had the experience of knowing and loving children with severe disabilities.  But even in my ultra religious days I struggled with the idea that God would purposefully allow people to be born this way.  I’ve seen some of the struggles that their parents face and I can’t even imagine how hard that life would be.  Right now, as I am writing this, I feel extremely guilty.  I don’t want to even write the words.  But here goes.  If I had known I was carrying a child with a severe genetic disorder or birth defects, I would have very seriously considered terminating the pregnancy. (Please don’t hate me!)

The last experience that really caused me to question my stance on abortion is the experience that I am living right now.  Having three children has been a really hard change for me.  The thought of accidentally getting pregnant right now scares me to death.  Yes, we use birth control.  But the thought that we could be the .001% is enough to make me panicky.  So while I’m waking up at all hours of the night to feed my precious sweet baby who I love dearly, I’m wrestling with my opinions about abortion.  While I’m screaming at the other two children who I have loved and adored everyday of their lives to please, for the love of God, just do one thing I’ve asked them to do, I’m struggling with my morality.  While I’m listening to another mother say how she can’t imagine life without her new baby and I feel guilty because I can imagine my life with just 2 kids, I’m troubled about what my principles should be.  Raising children is hard.  More specifically, being a mother is hard.  Being the primary care giver for little humans who suck the energy out of you in direct correlation to the amount of joy they bring to your life is hard.  It is a lifetime commitment.  Every day.  You don’t get a day off.  Ever.  Even if you are not physically with your children, you worry about them, wonder about them, think about them, love them.  This is no small thing.  You should be able to choose this.

I guess the conclusion I’ve come to, for now, as I’ve guilted myself back and forth over my beliefs on abortion is this:

Politically, I am pro-choice.  Personally, I am conflicted.

When I came to the realization that I no longer believe in a higher power who is concerned with my moral choices, I was adamant that I would not be what my Mormon friends and family expect me to be: a person who wanted to “sin” and has left all morals behind.  I now consciously try to be a better person than I was before.  But I also try to think more critically and examine different points of view than I would have considered before.  My religious friends would probably read this and think I’ve lost my morals and turned into a baby-killing, ethically-delinquent sinner.  That is not me.  It has taken personal courage to allow myself this internal debate and I hope that can be respected.

Trek: One of the Worst Experiences of My Life

In honor of Pioneer Day, I thought I would post about that lovely experience that so many youth in the church are forced to endure every summer. So let me take you back to the deep south, circa 1996-ish.

I was a pretty good little Mormon girl in my YW days. But I didn’t always love the activities. So when I heard about Trek, I was not thrilled. I realize now, after hearing stories of other Treks, we had it pretty easy in comparison. Our stake only did a 1 day trek and we did not have to dress in costumes. But we did have a dress code, as is usual with church functions and we did it smack in the middle of summer, to coincide with Pioneer Day. For those of you who have never experienced summer in the south, the word “hot” does not quite describe it accurately. 95 degree weather with 100% humidity is not just “hot.” You know that burning burst of steam that comes out of the oven when you’re baking something and accidentally get your face too close to the opening? That’s what its like every time you open your front door here in the summer. Then once you step out into that oven, imagine walking around in that heat with a blanket draped over your head so your hot breath is trapped against your face. That’s what the humidity feels like.

The heat was my first reason for not wanting to go. The dress code was my second reason. But my parents were adamant that I participate so I grouchily showed up at the butt crack of dawn to carpool out to the middle of nowhere so I could walk around all day and have a magical spiritual experience and gain a deeper respect for my ancestors. The dress code was long pants and shirts with sleeves. The only long pants I owned as a teenager were jeans. I’m pretty sure those were the only stylishly acceptable long pants to wear back in the mid 90’s, or at least I thought so because that is all I had. So I showed up in my wide-leg jeans, a t-shirt and my trusty Jansport backpack with all the gear I needed for the day.

So we started walking. We walked and walked and walked, just like the song says, pushing our handcarts as we went. Porta potties were set up along the way and I quickly realized that they were not set up close enough. I happened to be on my period that day and being a newly menstruating girl who knew nothing about my own body, I hadn’t quite mastered the use of tampons yet, so I got to make the trek while wearing a maxi pad that needed frequent changing. Not something a teenage girl ever wants to have to deal with, but especially not while walking for miles and miles in blistering heat with porta potties as the only restrooms in sight. So as I walked I realized that I was starting to leak. I know all my female readers feel my pain and embarrassment here. I cleaned up the best I could in the first port potty we come across and my mood soured even more.

We took a break for lunch and then got back to the walking just in time for a summer rain shower downpour to drench us all. At first we were all excited for the momentary feeling of refreshment. Then we realized that we had to continue to walk in the rain. So I was hot, sweaty, bloody, and now drenched as well. Have you ever tried walking for an extended period of time in wet jeans? I don’t recommend it because after about an hour I was hot, sweaty, bloody, drenched and now chaffing horribly. The rest of the whole experience is a blur but I vaguely remember that they had a dance at the end of the day. I can’t remember if the leaders just gave up and called it off or if I just refused to participate because I don’t think there was any way I would have let anyone of the opposite sex come remotely close to touching me after that day from hell.

So that was Trek.  No magical spiritual experience. No respect or reverence for my ancestors. Just anger, exhaustion, humiliation and a vow to never participate in any such ridiculousness ever again.

To Tell or Not to Tell: Coming Out as a Nonbeliever to My Mom

About a month or so ago, my husband posted a link to my blog on reddit and I went from zero page views to hundreds of page views within a few hours. It was really exciting and intimidating all at the same time and somehow the adrenaline of that moment gave me the last push I needed to finally call my extremely devout Mormon Mom and tell her my story (well, not my whole story.  I’m not that brave/crazy!).

Over the past 3 years I played this conversation out in my head hundreds of times. I’ve written letters that never got sent, I’ve agonized over what to say, and anytime I saw “Mom” come up on my caller id my heart would start racing because what if this would be the time she would finally ask. I live a few hours from my parents and we only see each other a few times a year, but I knew she had noticed my lack of garments (even though I’ve been very careful about not being obvious about it) or at least suspected something was up. The anxiety I was loading on myself over this inevitable conversation was getting to be too much.

I am a list maker. If I know something needs to get done, I make a list and I have a very hard time having things on my list that are not crossed off. That’s how I get things done. Telling my mom about my nonbelief had been on my imaginary to do list for far too long, and for me, I felt like I needed to cross that off my list in order to move on with my life in a more healthy, less anxiety-filled way.

So I paced around the house with my phone in hand rehearsing phrases like “I just want you to know that this was not a decision I came to lightly”, and “I have never prayed and fasted more sincerely than I did after I came across these difficult things”, and anything else I could think of that would help her understand that I’m not just lazy. I kept rehearsing and pacing, stalling more and more as I psyched myself up to actually make the call. Finally I just closed my eyes and pushed call.

Unfortunately, the conversation went just as I expected it would. I said what I wanted to say, but I didn’t feel like she really heard me. She went on and on about how she had to study and pray a lot to get a testimony of Joseph Smith as if I hadn’t just told her that I did the same thing just with different results. She pulled the “I can’t help but feel like a failure” card and “this is so hard for me because I believe in eternity” and “are you still keeping the standards?” (btw, what does that even mean/matter as long as I’m still a good person…which I had to explain to her that I still am…). I told her I would answer any questions that she had, but I also would understand if she would rather not talk about it. I wish she didn’t actually take me up on the questions thing. When my mom asked me if I still believe in Heavenly Father and my real answer is “no” but I knew that would break her heart I ended up saying  “I don’t know, but I’m okay with not knowing.”  After lots of tears (mostly on her part) and mutual assurances that we still love each other (this should be a red flag about your religion if these assurances as necessary…), the call ended amicably with an unspoken deal to agree to disagree and pretend like nothing had changed–we don’t like to draw attention to anything awkward or unpleasant in my family.

Even though I had expected these responses all along and had braced myself for them, when I hung up the phone I was so angry with my mom. I was physically sick to my stomach and I definitely didn’t feel that weight lifted off my shoulders like I was hoping to feel. Isn’t everyone on the ex Mormon internet always so relieved to be open about finally being able to “live an authentic life”? The only relief I got was that I could finally cross this off of my to do list, but mostly, I just felt sick.

It’s a strange feeling to be so angry with someone and know you shouldn’t be. I was in her shoes once. I believed it all at one point. I can’t blame her for her reaction. In her mind, she no longer has the perfect family that she used to have, that she worked so hard for. She has done everything she was supposed to do. She dragged us all the church every week. We rarely missed FHE, family scripture study, or family prayers. She did it all by the book and I am the first one of her children to stop believing. But my lack of belief has no validity in her world. She cannot understand it. Its not her fault that she has been indoctrinated and programmed her whole life to feel this way. So why am I digging up all of these resentful and angry feelings towards her when I know its not her fault?

I don’t know if I’m glad I came out and told her the truth or not. Part of me wishes I had just left it unsaid and let her think what she wanted. Then I wouldn’t have to feel this anger towards her and then the guilt for being angry at her. But I’m also the kind of person that still cares what other people think of me, and I felt like I needed to let her know it wasn’t just me being lured away by an easier lifestyle. There was nothing easy about losing my belief in Mormonism and I want her to know that. I can’t take it back now, so I just have to hope that she heard me even a little bit and be thankful it wasn’t worse. It definitely could have been.

Jane of the Nobility: An Allegorical Fairytale of Leaving My Religion

Once upon a time there was a young girl named Jane. Jane was the daughter of a very wealthy nobleman. She lived with her family in a great estate on a beautiful hillside in the country. Many other noble families lived on the hillside as well and Jane grew up surrounded by the wealthiest and most elite group of citizens in all the land. She was raised with the expectation that she would be presented at the king’s court when the time came. From birth she was taught the rules and the proper behavior of a royal. She was given daily tasks, exercises, and lessons to prepare herself for life at court. Jane was being groomed to become a queen. When she was a girl of just eight years old, she was betrothed to a prince.

Below the hillside where she lived there was a village where the commoners lived. Jane had been warned of the dangers of the village since she was a small girl. She had been taught about the great sorcerer who lived in the village. He was a wicked sorcerer and controlled the people of the village with his dark magic. He would put the people under his magic spells and turn them to beasts. The nobles knew the secrets to blocking the sorcerer’s magic. They washed themselves in magic potions made from lily petals, juniper berries and grasses every morning. They lived by strict diets to keep their bodies pure and strong. And most importantly, whenever they went into the village, they would wear special covers over their heads that would shield them from seeing or hearing anything wicked. This way they were sure to be protected from the sorcerer’s power.

As a young girl, Jane was rarely allowed to go into the village. Although she had never seen them herself, she had been taught that the villagers were too lazy to try to protect themselves against the sorcerer and therefore had allowed themselves to gradually turn to beasts. She heard stories of people who had the faces of animals but the bodies of humans and just looking at them could cause you to start growing beastly features yourself. She was told that they despised the nobles and because of their jealousy they would find ways to trick the wealthy people into taking off their covers. So when they needed to venture into the village, the nobles took great precautions. Finding her way through the village without sight or sound was awkward, but she learned to keep close to her known routes and rely on the experience of her mother, father, and other noble adults who had grown more accustomed to navigating the village without sight.

By the time she was grown, Jane was allowed to go to the village on her own, but she was still extremely cautious. Jane was still preparing herself to be ready to marry the prince. She led a very regimented life full of lessons, practice, study and meditation. Everything in her life was in order for her to join the royal family. She just had to wait for the day when her marriage would come. She didn’t know when the marriage would take place, but she had been assured it would be soon.

One day Jane was sent to the village to buy food for her family. As usual, she covered her face before she left the hillside and carefully followed the known route to the market. She collected the food and paid the villager who sold her the items, the transaction taking place without words. She carefully felt each piece of food to be assured of its quality and then turned back towards the hillside to head home. As she turned around, she bumped into another person, tripped and fell to the ground. Her head cover fell off her face and she could see her food spilled in the dirt. As she hurried to pick up the produce off the ground she saw 2 other people kneeling in the dirt beside her. At first she worried that they were trying to steal her food, but quickly realized they were helping her collect it and returning it to her basket. She could not stop her curiosity and took a quick glance at their faces, bracing herself to see the hideous beast faces she had always heard stories of. To her surprise, she saw no beasts, but friendly faces, smiling and apologizing for the accident.  She thanked the villagers and took one last quick peek around the village before putting her cover back on her head and continuing her walk back to her home.

For the entire walk home she could not get the image of the kind faces of the villagers out of her mind. She wondered how her experience could be true when she had known about the dangers of the village and evil spells cast on the people who lived there. She lingered on the pathway up the hillside, trying to understand what she had seen and heard before returning to the house. She was sure that no one in her family would believe her story if she told them, and she was embarrassed that she had been so clumsy to let her head cover fall off. She decided that she couldn’t tell anyone what had happened, not yet at least.

When she got to the house she quickly put the food away and avoided anyone who might be around. She was scared that they would ask her what had taken her so long and she knew she would have to lie, something that she knew was an evil act. She could feel their eyes on her as she tried to look calm while walking back to her bedroom. But once the door closed to her room, panic set in. She ran to her mirror to check for signs that she was under the sorcerer’s spell. Everything seemed normal. She saw no signs that she was becoming a beast. Just to be sure, she grabbed her magic potions and washed her body many times. She pulled out her books and began pouring over them, trying to find out more about the sorcerer and his powers, about the villagers, and the beasts they had become. All day she stayed locked in her room, reading, washing, and pondering, but the more she studied, the more confused she got. She realized that the only way to know the truth, was to go back to the village and take another look.

The next day she went back into the village. She wore her head cover, but this time she cut a small slit near each eye, just enough to let in the smallest bit of light and give her a tiny window to the outside world. As she entered the village she pretended to walk blindly, but found this hard to do when she could in fact see a bit of what was around her. She searched the faces of the villagers for any resemblance of the beasts she had expected to see, but she saw none. She saw people going about their day, shopping in the market, washing clothes in the stream, children running and playing. Nothing was as she had expected based on what she had been taught to believe. Feeling more confused than ever and more guilty than ever, she decided to return to the safety of her home. The confusion and guilt she felt upon arriving home was again too much for her to hide so she locked herself in her room once more and spent the rest of the day washing, studying and meditating. Trying to make sense of what she had seen and wash away any traces of it at the same time.

She struggled between her desire to go back to the village and see more and her fear of turning to a beast. Her curiosity got the best of her and each day she would find excuses to go to the village and each day she would see more and more of the world that had been invisible to her for so long. She eventually stopped covering her ears and she could hear the sounds of laughter, singing, talking and arguing. She found her way down new streets. She started to learn that indeed, there were parts of the village that were dangerous, where she saw people acting cruel and vicious. She was surprised at how close some of these parts of town were to the paths she had stuck to her whole life and wondered at how she could feel comfortable walking those same paths now knowing their true danger.

The more she visited the village, the less trust she had in the things she had been taught about it her whole life. She knew the village was not full of evil beasts and began to resent the people who had always taught her otherwise. She began to grow weary of waiting for her marriage to the prince. She had been waiting for and preparing for this event her whole life and she started to doubt weather or not her betrothal was real. She tried to send messages to the royal family to get any news she could about the upcoming marriage, but her messages went unanswered. She wondered if they somehow knew her secrets and were avoiding her on purpose.

It was a warm summer day, about a year after her accident in the village that opened her eyes. Jane was again wandering through the village trying to learn for herself what was good and what was evil when she saw a small pathway into the forest that she had longed to go down many times before. It was on this day that she decided to venture down this new path.   Once she was well enough into the forest that the village was out of sight she removed her head cover. It was a feeling of freedom she had never felt before. Even though she was always uncovered at home, this was the first time she had ever fully removed the cover from her head outside of the safety of the hillside. She immediately realized the weight that the cover had been exerting on her and she naturally jumped to her feet and began to dance around. She danced and danced and laughed and sang, no longer worried about the sorcerer and his powers.

As she was dancing she didn’t even notice the young woman watching her from the edge of the forest. Jane finally ended her song and dropped down onto the warm ground to catch her breath. She was startled to hear the woman come up behind her and she was immediately afraid. But the woman was kind and friendly and after the initial fear faded, Jane asked the woman to join her. They talked and laughed as if they had been long time friends. Jane was curious to know all about the woman and her life in the village and the woman in turn was curious and about Jane’s life on the hillside. After hours of talking Jane knew she was expected to be at home and walked with the woman out of the forest, carrying her head covering, but not worrying to put it back on even when they reached the village. The new friends said their goodbyes and Jane walked through the village with her eyes and ears wide open for the first time in her life. She smiled and waved to the villagers as she passed them and was happy to be among them.

As she was walking home she saw a couple of the nobles walking home from the market, covered as usual. Jane quickly hid in an alley-way until they had passed, worried that they had seen her uncovered. She quickly realized that they could not have seen her, being covered as they were. She felt relief and sadness both that her secret was still safe, but also that her friends could not see the truth of what the village really was.

At home she was still trying to get word from the royal family about the marriage, but each day she was more and more convinced that even if the marriage were to happen, it was not what she really wanted. Jane loved her time in the village and the freedom she felt while she was there. She had a true friend in the village who opened her eyes to even more than she could see herself. She knew her future husband, the prince would never marry her if he knew what she had done. To break the engagement would be devastating to her family and their place in the social structure of the nobility. She would be shunned and possibly cast out from her home if she did not do continue her daily preparation for the marriage that she was not even sure would ever come. Jane was torn between two worlds, with a secret that was becoming too heavy to bear.

She could no longer pretend to believe in the sorcerer’s magic as she had been taught. She felt let down by all the deceptions she had been led to believe and sad for all the beauty she had unknowingly shielded herself from all these years. She still loved her family and friends on the hillside, but pretending had become too exhausting. After a few years of living in limbo, Jane finally decided to move out of the estate on the hillside and into the village. She found that the preparation to become royal had taught her many useful skills that were needed in the village and she found work right away. She made new friends, but still longed to be with her family.

One day as she was shopping in the market she saw her parents shopping for food. Jane called out to her mother and father and waved her arms. But they could not see or hear her. They would not see her smile or hear her story. They assumed she and anyone else in the village had become beasts, but their protective covers isolated them from the truth. Jane considered running up to them and pulling their covers off, forcing them to see her as she was, not as a beast, but as a happy woman. She knew this would be offensive to her parents though so she waited day after day for anyone from her family to come looking for her, to lift their covers and see her for themselves. Every now and then she would see a familiar face from the hillside, uncovered as she was and felt an instant connection to them. But her family was always covered, day after day. So she continued to wait and to this day she is still waiting.