I was called to my first “presidency calling” when I was 7 months pregnant. It was to the Relief Society Presidency. That calling lasted through two more pregnancies. My call to be Primary President came when I was 8 months pregnant with the fourth child. Another call to the Relief Society Presidency came at 2 weeks post-partum with my fifth. Through these experiences I have learned something very valuable about myself.
I am invisible.
For a decade now, I have sat through meetings where we discuss the vast chasms of need that dwell in the lives of sisters all around me. As we have contemplated filling callings or asking for service from these women, often the phrase is repeated, “Well, Sister S just had a baby. We couldn’t impose on her.” “Sister M is pregnant. She must feel awful. We shouldn’t give her a calling for at least a year after that precious child is born.” “Sister T sure has her hands full with all those little kids. Asking her to do something would surely be an unnecessary burden on her family.”
Pregnant lady, right here next to you. You just called me to be the PRIMARY PRESIDENT!
I have, for the entire previous 10 years, wondered what kind of aura I’ve been putting off into the ethos that says, “I’m not normal. Please make me work as hard as possible, under the most trying of circumstances, and ignore this big, fat belly, or this screaming little mass of flesh permanently attached to my breast (which I’m sorry, but is just going to flash you, no matter how hard I try).”
Now, I consider myself a pretty tough chick, but even I could use a nice empty, meeting-free Sunday once or twice a decade. So, after thinking about this for several years (I never said I was very smart), I think I’ve come up with an answer.
I am completely and entirely filled with sinful pride.
I am just so unwilling to show any sign of weakness, that I force myself to be put together and composed under any circumstance. Kill me, it might, but darn it, I’ll be looking fit and prepared for the occasion.
Why on earth I do this to myself is beyond me. I’ve never much cared for the image of a weak, needy Justine (I don’t have the right jawline to pull it off), but then, I’ve never once considered any of the women who we’ve discussed in my vast array of meetings as being weak or needy. Go figure. I’ve seen so many strong, capable women who have borne their trials with grace and dignity. But me? I’d rather everyone just think I’ve got no trials.
Sinful, I tell ya.
I’ve only known of one person who saw so clearly through my iron-clad composure. It was a visiting teacher I had a few years ago. She would always ask the requisite, “How can we help you?” at our visits, and I would reply with the same requisite, “Oh, I’m just fine.” But she didn’t believe me, can you believe that? She would show up on my doorstep at random moments in my day with pies, entire dinners, chocolate, or notes of encouragement. She would steal my kids for an hour so I could nap or run errands. She would actually call me, exactly when I needed her most, just to say hello.
Imagine it! It’s just like you read about in the Ensign! Only it’s for real!
Someone, living by the Spirit, seeing through my pride and arrogance. She knew I couldn’t keep up the facade forever, but she didn’t wait for me to crack wide open. She just quietly glued up the fissures, opened up places for pressure to release, and filled me up with warm, chocolately goodness. Because of her example, someday I’ll actually be as good a person as I’m pretending to be right now.
If only I had been in the Relief Society Presidency when they took her away from me — I could have used my position to keep her assigned to me. Maybe I should have tried getting pregnant.
Why do we women pretend so much (or am I the only one)? Why is it so hard to be real? And isn’t there some sort of line somewhere between being totally put together 24/7 and being a big puddle of misery splayed out on the floor all the time? Where on earth is that line?