As we were decorating our Christmas tree, Mister C. opened the box containing our two nativity sets, and looked at me, questioningly."Leave it in the box," I replied. "Its not like either of us believes in a virgin birth."
My 12 years of Catholic schooling certainly imbued me with a more-than-healthy sense of guilt. For example, even after many years away from the Catholic church, I still retained a very strong fear of using hormonal birth control. It had been ingrained in my brain from a very young age that using the Pill was synonymous with going to an abortion clinic and having the fetus violently expelled.
Showing pictures of aborted fetuses to 4th graders tends to have a lasting effect.
Similarly, my 10 years in the Mormon Church left their mark on my confidence as a wife, mother, and friend. If we held FHE but skipped out on the refreshments, I felt uneasy. If I read scriptures individually, but not as a family, I was failing at my role as a mother.
The worst was the sense of gender roles - Since being Mormon, I felt that the only acceptable reason for working outside the home as a mother was death, disability, or severe financial distress. Therefore, I mentally and emotionally blockaded myself from enjoying my job. I refused to call it a career. I worked just enough to avoid depression or insanity, and was careful never to let it approach the evil "Personal Fulfillment" level. I had to ensure that my disability (i.e., emotional need to work) never was used as an excuse for enjoying being away from my grubby kid.
I've found that there are some interesting and positive side-effects that have come from my disaffection from organized religion. I see the basis of most of them coming from reliquishing guilt and just enjoying life.
I thoroughly enjoy my job now. I feel immense personal fulfillment when I receive promotions, and am happy to take courses to further my career.
With our 10% raise in income, we moved our son to a different, secular preschool. He doesn't come home any more with coloring sheets about Jesus. On the other hand, I know I don't have to worry about him talking about the Pride Parade when one of his classmates has two dads.
I'm enjoying forming friendships with my son's teachers and the parents of his classmates. I no longer feel a sense of moral superiority when someone else is holding a cup of coffee in their hand. These are my equals.
I find myself having more fun when I play with my son. I don't spend all my time thinking that I haven't included Jesus or Book of Mormon stories enough. I don't spend my time thinking that I need to be doing this more often. I just enjoy the moment.
We left the nativity set in the box this year, and our theme for the holidays is a "Harry Potter Christmas". I don't care that it isn't about Jesus.
I just want to be me, and to enjoy what I have. I don't see the world through the lens of "worthy" and "unworthy" anymore.
31 was a good year. Next week I'll be 32. This year's goal? I want to be guilt-free by 33.