Damned, Either Way

It still surprises me how unkind some people can be. What part of building Zion makes it acceptable to be furiously judgmental? Over the last few years, I have seen the very (very) best my adopted community has to offer, and I’ve also been privy to some of the most scathing and biting commentary on women, in particular, me. I suppose so much light must cast a shadow…

I’ve been accused of milking my ward, being inconsiderate of my Elder’s Quorum in accepting a spot in graduate school and needing to move, of overstepping my proper place in seeking higher education. I’ve been called to repentance in a letter for being an apostate feminist and I’ve been shunned in person for being too orthodox. I’ve been called a Welfare Mother, I’ve been accused in a national newspaper of overfeeding my lazy fat children on the less than $4 per day that welfare provides. It’s been suggested that I should just find a husband not not take a man’s spot in grad school, and I’ve been told my children should be my highest priority, and to get off my ass and get a job.

I’ve been asked how I can submit my will to a patriarchal church, and I’ve been told by leaders of that church that I need not lobby for rights if I just remember how to be virtuous. I have been told that my undergrad should be enough, and if were less educated, I might have an easier time meeting a man. I have been told I sacrificed my children’s well-being by going to school, and that they are victims of my ambition. I have been told “how dare you?” when I admit I receive public assistance, and have had strangers comment on my belongings in line at the grocery store. I have been told that I am a reason not to pay tithing anymore.

I do not wear my CV around my neck. I do not owe every person I meet a run-down on how hard I have tried, how many mountains I have climbed, how my soul has been wracked, how many tears have fallen from my chin, how many times I have fallen, and been too weary to get up. But I just keep writing.

What should a woman in my position do? I am sick of retelling the sad story of the last several years in order to gain approval from strangers. I have chosen to be raw, open and naked in my narrative, and I do not regret it. The net good that has come from my vulnerability far outweighs the cruelty— a truth for which I am eternally grateful.

To the rest of the people who are overflowing with misdirected anger, hatred, cruelty and what they might imagine is righteous indignation? May you never walk a day in my shoes. To those who have loved me, picked me up when I thought I couldn’t do it on my own; you hold my heart in your hands, my gratitude in your limbs, and my teachable self moving forward, emulating your examples.

29 thoughts on “Damned, Either Way

  1. I don’t normally comment but I just want to say that I am sorry people have been so unkind to you. I, for one, admire your courage, strength, hard work, determination and love for your children. I saw the post on Segullah about how they came together for you last year and are doing a scholarship in your honor and I was moved to tears. I have been reading about your struggles for a few years and I just want to say “Keep going!! You can do it!!”. You have inspired me and I thank you!

  2. Tracy, I am so sorry all these things have happened to you. I suspect you are stronger in spite of them and therein lies the blessing. People are people, Mormon and otherwise. Striving for “perfection” seems to give some the right to judge, I think. We are all so desperately imperfect. Too bad we can’t accept our human frailties and simple help one another through mortality. You’re making the best decisions for you and your kids, ALWAYS remember that. No one walks in your moccasins but you. Listening to the Spirit is the best way to live life, no matter the criticism. Sometimes people are jealous of what they cannot or have chosen not to attain. Pray for them. Hold your head up…I love you, your kids love you and Mr. and Mrs. God love you…carry on!

  3. People, overwhelmingly, have been VERY kind to me. In no way do feel like a victim- I just want to say that loud and clear. I have worked hard, but I have also been generously helped and loved. It just seemed like the sudden resurfacing of my story with the publication of the scholarship last week brought out some negativity, and it made me think of all the other things that have been said over the last few years.

    This really was just a vent.

    Thank you both for your comments.

  4. Oh Tracy…..my heart hurts for you. You are one of the most hard working people I know and you have so much love for you kids. I don’t know why people have to be so mean and judgemental. I’ve been dealing with some harsh judgement lately and that part I can understand how you feel. Just know that you are an amazing woman and I think you are doing great in every aspect of your life. Keep it up and don’t let these idiots (putting it nicely) knock you down.

  5. You know how I feel about you and yours, but I’ll state it again. You are gifted and kind and good. Your children are lucky to have you. Your friends are lucky to have you. You inspire me again and again.

    (And in a fit of self-control I’ll not say how I feel about those who are judging you.)

  6. YES YES YES YES YES!!!! I, too, am a broken welfare recipient, child of a single mother. And I’m just done explaining to everyone why we are not worthy of their scathing contempt. Just fuck it. That’s really all I can say.

    I’m going to send this to my mother. I expect she shall weep tears of validation.

  7. You know better what is best for your and your family than anyone. You received the inspiration that sent you across the country and set your path that will best help your family. No one else can claim they know better than you.

    For everyone who has asked me why on earth I would subject my family to grad school I have replied “Following God’s plan for me put me here.” They can’t argue with that.

  8. You, the fabulous TracyM, have long been a heroine of mine.

    May I fight and work and pray and get back up again as much as you do.

  9. One of several reasons why I was so very depressed while we were putting Renn through school in PA – If it weren’t enough that I hated the feeling of needing (and running through god-awful hoops to acquire) government aid, I also got to deal with the infinite bliss of having people judge me every time I had to go out and utilize that aid. It sucked to high heaven.
    But sweet lady – if you keep at it, school eventually ends. And while it’s actually kind of awesome to be able to pay taxes and tithing now that we have an income, life is not really any less complicated. Nor do people have trouble finding new things about me to judge. Go figure.

  10. Thank you for always honest and insightful post. You are a wonderful example of how to keep moving forward even when you don’t feel like it. I have been reading your posts for a coupole of years now and still feel a quickening of my heart when I see Dandelion Mama in my inbox. You have inspired in me so many ways I have even returned to school to earn that degree I left so many years ago in favor of marriage and children. I have struggled with trhe mormon faith and finally gave up the struggle this year I hope that you can remember all the positives in your life because that is what you do for me each time I read one of your posts. Good Luck in all you do!

  11. Remember the old adage, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”? Your strength shines through all of the hate…keep going, it will be worth it!

  12. Judge not, lest ye be judged comes to mind….

    I have learned that you cannot judge someone on outward appearances….that sister in relief society who seems so perfect may be struggling with raising a teenager who is homosexual…or dealing with an abusive husband who puts on a good show in front of his church family….or it could be a sister struggling to better herself AND her children though the outward path may appear hard….

    I for one, think nothing but amazing thoughts of you, you have struggled and have pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and deserve every blessing that comes your way.

  13. Did those people who said those cruel things not learn the song, “Love one Another?” There is so much I could say here about those type of people but I’m not.
    My younger daughter who just got her call to South America, has changed her mind and will not be going on her mission.. She started dating a nice boy right about the time she put in her papers, and has decided to pursue love. She was just telling me the other night how people are saying ‘just pray about it….blah blah blah….you should go!!! It is a great experience.” blah blah blah!… I told her to not even respond to any comments about her prayerful decision to not go…it doesn’t matter what they think. It only matters what the Lord thinks of her decision, which is what ever she decides is acceptable to him.
    Remember all of us here Tracy when you start to feel down about all the inconsiderate people who think their opinion matters….cause they don’t…

  14. I just want to say that my Mom put herself through graduate school after my dad left. My two brothers and I could not have had a better example of what is important in life. We knew our Mom loved us because she told us all the time -in words and in setting a great example on her quest for education. Keep going! Education is so important and you are teaching your children that valuable lesson. Don’t ever let anyone make you think differently!

  15. It always astounds me how judgmental people are, especially people in the Church who really should know better. My husband was laid off 5 months ago and hasn’t been able to find a job. For the most part people have been supportive, but I’ve had my share of rude comments, especially because of food stamps. I’ve even had rude comments about how healthy we’re eating! Apparently because I’m on government assistance I shouldn’t be allowed to buy organic food. Some people just don’t think before they make stupid comments about things that are none of their business.

  16. i’ve never met you, but have read your blog for the past few years and have always been so inspired by your beautiful words. what an example you are to all of us. thank you for sharing your experiences so honestly – my heart hurt for you when i read this post. i hope you know that for every one of the judgmental people trying to bring you down, there are hundreds of us out here rooting for you and cheering you on. i love the example of hard work and dedication you are showing your children. i can’t imagine how tired you must be of it all. if all of us could be half as courageous and kind as you, the world would be a better place.

  17. You are an example of what kind of woman I want my daughters to be – even as I pray they won’t have to suffer what you have suffered.

    I can’t express properly how much I admire and respect you, and how grateful I am to be able to call you “Friend”.

  18. I was told once by a man who had actually once said, “The government needs to keep it’s hands off my Medicare” that Satan gave my daughter cancer so that his angels could drag me down to hell, and that it had apparently worked. And what proof did he have that I was now in the grips of Satan’s angels? I support access to health care for everyone and our daughter needed Medicaid.

    I’ve decided that the root of a lot of this anger and judgment is really fear. They are afraid that if other people get help in any way, then it won’t be there for them if they ever need it. (And they usually protest loudly that they’ll never need it as a way of comfortably denying the possibility.) Same thing with feminism/education stuff. If you’re right then they are afraid it means that they did something wrong. It’s not rational, but true. My MIL told me once we bought a condo (and had no kids) that it was time for me to “quit this silly school-thing and stay home and take care of the house.”

    Love and hugs.

    • Hi Tracy.

      I just want to second Emily’s comment. I think that many people use such judgements and judgemental statements as a way to distance themselves from the situation. When someone says that “you should do X,” what they sometimes mean is that they would never find themselves in your situation because of how smart, righteous, and in control of their own destiny they are.

      The good news is that this is much more about them and their fears and not very much about you.

      The bad news is that these kind of isolating judgements get in the way of really connecting with and loving each other. After all, can we really build Zion by occupying a pew and mailing in a check? I think not.

  19. I have followed your blog for a number of years and have admired your faith and your decisions of strength. I’m sorry people have been so condescending and rude. I too am a woman with a Masters Degree (I’m a SLP). I once had a woman ask if I was going to get a PhD so I wouldn’t have to have children. I laughed in her face. Well, fast forward down the road 15 years, 2 kids later, and I have been left by a husband who decided he was gay. I am so GLAD I followed God’s plan! I needed that degree to support my family!! There is nothing wrong with an educated woman. I am appalled by the comments of others at times and I know those comments can get under your skin. I have no idea how others have so much time to try to be obstacles and judges in our paths. I recently said ” Oh I didn’t know God was now opening up a community personal revelation plan for my life”. haha.

    As you know so very well, time can heal many wounds and can bring you so much change. As long as you have a strong relationship with God, you can feel you are on the path he has created for you to follow. God’s path will always take you so much farther than you ever dreamed in your mind.

    You are a strong woman and a good mother! You’re doing the right thing.

    I found this on Facebook and I LOVE it

    “Sometimes the strongest women are the ones who love beyond all faults, cry behind closed doors and fight battles no one knows about”.

    Keep Calm and Carry On. It will get better.

  20. I’m reminded of something Elder Maxwell said regarding the two great commandments: “On the two great commandments, Jesus declared emphatically, everything else hangs, not vice versa.” Many who read here are rooting for you. I feel ashamed at people’s reactions, especially those who have voluntarily made promises to God to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn; and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.

    Aren’t we all beggars?

    Many reactions you describe sound very familiar:

    “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man (woman) has brought upon him(her)self his (her) misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that (s)he may not suffer, for his (her) punishments are just…”

    Stay strong, sister.

  21. Those things make me absolutely furious! I wish I were more articulate at this moment to say something really scathing. But really, that’s not necessary, I suppose. I have read every post on your blog. I have learned much about motherhood from you. You really are one of the people I look up to and the kind of mother I aspire to be: from schooling to sparkly pants to lemon bars and graduate school. My life is better because you have chosen to be so raw. I support you.

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