Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

JOY isn’t always a reason to be happy


A while ago Daniel and I were sitting in his kitchen. I was working on some school stuff while he was doing his laundry. The washing machine was running and he was ironing his clothes for work. One shirt after another. He took very, very long and I had troubles concentrating on my school work because he was just doing everything in a way that made things much more complicated. At some point I offered to show him a trick how to iron his clothes faster. I got up and showed him how to get the shirt into a position that will allow you to iron without ironing more wrinkles into it. I ended up ironing that shirt myself because I told him that now I started, I might as well finish that shirt. So he pulled the next one out and attempted to iron again. I saw that he wasn’t doing it the way I showed him and took over again. Another shirt. He was getting impatient with my bossy attitude and told me to stop ironing his stuff. I told him that I didn’t mind doing it. After all, I could iron three shirts in the time it took him to finish one. He said he minds, though. I told him to quit acting all hurt just because I criticized him. It was just a shirt! He started explaining to me that it wasn’t me criticizing him that annoyed him. It was the fact that he could very well do it on his own, even if it took him much longer. It was his work to do, his chores. He didn’t want me to act like his slave. That made me kind of angry and I ended up saying “I don’t mind doing it, I like to help. Don’t go all weird on me.” He was kind of upset at this point and shot “I won’T go all weird if you won’t go all quiverfull and shit.” Outch.

I left the kitchen and started to watch some TV. I was really upset and hurt. I don’t like having people throw things like that into my face. “Going all quiverfull”.

A while later he joined me in the living room and apologized for saying it the way he said it, but explained that it’s this thing I do all the time, to everyone. The thing where I “help” without looking after myself. The thing where I do things for others and drop all my own issues, even if it means that I’ll have a hard time catching up with my own stuff. Like dropping the schoolwork to iron his shirts.

Of course I denied that this was true. But deep inside I knew he was right. The same thing kept repeating in my head: J O Y, Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. Was I still doing that?

We kept talking about it and he could name a whole lot of occasions where I was acting this way. I ignore my own schedule to help others by driving them places whenever need be. When being asked what I’d like to do, I always say “I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?” and then end up doing that no matter what. When somebody asks me where I would like to go for dinner, what I’d like to have, I always say I don’t care. I’ll eat Pizza when I’d rather have chinese. When we do a cooking night, I always ask people what I should cook. When they ask me what I want, I say “I don’t care, what do YOU want?”. When it comes to seeing a movie, I do the same. The list goes on…. and on…. and on….

It’s so frustrating. I never realized I was doing it. I asked my friends and they all agreed. Pretty shocking to me.

All of this put me into somewhat of a depression for two days. I thought I had changed, my life had changed and then I saw that one of the most painful philosophies of the QF movement was still the major philosophy in my life.

Daniel came up with a 6 week “challenge” for me. Whenever he would ask me what I wanted, I’d have to give him and honest, “selfish” answer. Of course, he would sometimes decide what to do, but about half of the time, I was supposed to make the decision. If I would say something like “I don’t know”, he would ignore me and do it on his own. Like, go and eat on his own when I didn’t know what we should have. I’d have to get my own then as well. It didn’t sound so bad. Boy was I wrong! It is so hard.

Three days later, he asked me what I wanted for dinner. I gave it a quick thought, remembering that I couldn’t just ask him back and then answered a casserole dish that I know he loves. He gave me a very sort of humored, sort of disappointed look. “You can’t just pick my favourite dish, especially when I know you don’t like it.” He was right. I do not like that dish very much. I eat it when I have to. I was so disappointed with myself. It sounded like such an easy thing to do. Why couldn’t I just say what I want?

Since we started I’ve been constantly feeling guilty about my decisions. Whenever I have to pick, I feel like I’m doing something wrong. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

As weird as it sounds… I want others to make those decisions. I don’t care if I end up eating food I don’t really like, or watching a movie I’m not interested in. I feel so guilty and selfish, selfish, selfish when we end up doing something that I want to do.

We’re still on the six weeks and it’s a nightmare for me. Every single day he doesn’t ask me what I want is a relief. I do want to change… but it’s so hard.


26 thoughts on “JOY isn’t always a reason to be happy

  1. SO been there!! Hang in there though…it does get easier!!

  2. Good for you, being willing to admit what you want to change and being honest about the difficulty of it. Change is hard and you can’t move from point A to point B in one leap, but by taking baby steps, you’ll get there!
    My issues were different, but when I needed to make some changes in my life, I had two mantras that helped me do it… I’ve made the changes I wanted to and I couldn’t be happier.

    You are enough.
    Start where you are.
    Use what you have.
    Do what you can.

    And this seems to be true for me, you may find it works for you also… “Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.” -Carol Welch

    So go for a walk/bike ride/exercise class/etc… you might be surprised how that helps you create the change you want. Though QF movement might disagree, taking time to take care of your body is not selfish, it’s important to living life well.

  3. It’s pretty common for people who don’t feel guilty about putting themselves first to still have a few areas of their life where being routinely decisive is uphill work.

    I use a farm share (basically a weekly box of mixed vegetables that you buy on a subscription) to cope with the fact that I find choosing a decent variety from the grocery store (even just to suit myself) rather difficult.

    Listing acceptable choices, flipping a coin, and then trying to read whether you are disappointed [by the coin’s choice] is also a valid bridge strategy. There’s a bunch of other choice reduction strategies, some of them used in product marketing – it turns out that there’s an optimal number of choices to present to shoppers.

  4. I’ve been there! And still am, a lot of the time. I have to make a conscious effort to think “wait- is that what I want? Or do I just want to not cause friction and look selfish?” It takes time, but it sounds like you have a great support group who want to see you grow. That will help.

    Another thing you might try: sit down with your journal, when you have time alone, and start listing things you like. Write ANYTHING that comes to mind, no matter how small/trivial or big/fantastic. i.e. “milkshakes, stormy days, dreams of becoming a doctor, purple nail polish”… You get the idea. Then make another list, things you don’t like: i.e. “tomatoes, mustaches, people who cut in line, wacky movies, feeling guilty…”

    I’ve done the list thing a bunch of times after I realized I never voiced or let myself feel what I like or didn’t like. It will help serve as a bit of a compass to you. And- it’s kinda fun!

    P.S. So glad you’re back to writing!

  5. I think it’s awesome that you are working on this and you have someone so supportive to help you with it. I can’t offer any advice on how to do it, though, as I’m kind of the complete opposite myself. I have to close my eyes and randomly distribute dinner or I know I will give myself the best bit. And I feel guilty about that! Maybe we just can’t win.

    One thing that might help, though, is to realise that others genuinely don’t care about going along with your choices. I’m what we shall euphemistically call a ‘strong’ personality and if I’m with someone like yourself, we always end up doing what I want because I’ll decide to avoid an hour of trying to get the other person to make a decision. It drives me batty. I don’t want to be the one making all the decisions. Sometimes I just really want to take the day off from it and I end up feeling bad because I know it’s probably not what they really want, anyway.

    I guess what I’m trying to get at, is that you aren’t always helping others by putting them first anyway. You might even be making them happier by deciding for them because it’s actually pretty sucky to always be in charge.

    • “I’m what we shall euphemistically call a ‘strong’ personality and if I’m with someone like yourself, we always end up doing what I want because I’ll decide to avoid an hour of trying to get the other person to make a decision. It drives me batty. I don’t want to be the one making all the decisions.”

      I can so relate to that…Groups are the worst. Know that situation where you are in a group of, say, 3-4 people trying to decide where you want to eat/what you want to do and *everyone* just says “I don’t care” “I don’t mind” “I’m okay with everything”? Gaah!
      I end up deciding quite often and then I tend to feel guilty because I don’t want to impose my will on anyone but if we keep discussing the next 45 minutes nothing gets done -___-
      I don’t have problem making decisions at all, but really, unless it’s a really important matter or something I don’t like at all it’s nice to just go along with someone else’s plans sometime. That’s probably why everybody else is doing it…

  6. Same problem here. Even more – I’ve found my “chooser” to be broken. I don’t know how to make a decision, how to know what I want. It’s getting better, but really speaks to how unimportant people are in the quiverfull world who are not in authority.

  7. I understand the difficulty you’re facing. It’s hard going from a world where your needs are secondary to a world where people actually care about what you think and what you want. If Daniel is asking you to tell him what you want, come up with some things that you feel comfortable asking for that you BOTH like, not just him. It is easier when others make the decisions but it isn’t always better.

  8. Oh wow…that’s me! I’m getting better at it, but it’s hard one.

  9. I know where you are coming from, this is so hard! I still find myself pushing down needs or desires in favor of other people. I second the commentor who suggested making a list of things you love and things you don’t, I add to mine periodically, and it does help. And you are not the only one to feel upset and shamed when you try to make decisions for the first time, sometimes I end up crying over silly things, like being at a resteraunt and ordering something I don’t want because I don’t want to cost too much money or I don’t want to keep everyone waiting while I take a million years to make up my mind. It’s all OK. Take your time, think it over, and keep at it. It is so worth it!

  10. Wow, ok. I do that all the time. I always put it down to being indecisive. I grew up with JOY too. However, when I was still (just plain old fundamentalist, not quiverfull) christian, I was a lot more decisive than I am now, if I remember correctly. And when I do have to make a decision I don’t feel guilty or selfish so much as just really worried/anxious that the other person may not be doing/eating/etc something they want.
    I don’t know, maybe it’s not the same thing as what you’re going through, or maybe it is. Either way, I completely sympathise and understand how hard it is.
    And thank you for making me look at this tendency of mine consciously, to try to figure out what I’m doing: if it’s a remnant of JOY or a part of mild social anxiety.

    • “worried/anxious that the other person may not be doing/eating/etc something they want”

      Oh yes, this too. I’m not even at a point where I can imagine making someone do something I know they don’t enjoy that much. I keep having this strange vision of me sitting at the dinner table with my boyfriend, eating something I like but he doesn’t, and he stands up and gets upset and is really disappointed with me and leaves the house. Which is nothing but stupid because I know that’s not what sane people do and it would never happen. But it still terrifies me!

  11. I was never in the QF movement, but my parents were and still are pretty fundamentalist. My father was raised in a household where women were to be submissive to men, always wear skirts, wear no makeup, keep their hair long, but pinned up, and take care of the household. And that carried over somewhat into my childhood, although my mom acted as something of a buffer.

    Anyway, I tend to do the same thing with feeling selfish about deciding about little things like what to eat. If we go to a place where my husband doesn’t like the food, even if I like the place, I feel guilty for suggesting it. The only time I feel okay with selecting something is when it’s for me – my birthday or some special occasion being celebrated for me.

    But it’s something I’ve noticed in most of the women in my life, not just in my family, but in my husband’s family too. His mom was raised in a pretty liberal Lutheran household and she does it as well. My mom does it. In fact, I only know a few women who who no problem expressing their opinion on these types of group decisions. It’s weird.

    • Your last paragraph is exactly what I was thinking. I was raised vaguely Quaker (generally very liberal, very egalitarian) by my single mother, who is very much about women’s rights, and I _still_ have problems with feeling selfish. When I was young, it was extreme — I wouldn’t be willing to ask people who worked in stores questions for fear of imposing — and I still have a huge reluctance to ask people favors or express preferences, to the point where even if I would have a preference if alone, I can’t figure out what it is in a group setting.

      My mother noticed these problems, and tried to work on it with me, with some success. From what she tells me, she was like this when she was younger. Now, she is still very considerate, but doesn’t have a problem expressing preferences. I work on it all the time, but it’s hard. I also have a boyfriend who has noticed this about me, and is trying to coax me out of these habits.

      What’s the worst feeling for me is when you’ve finally expressed a desire to do something, and then it somehow goes wrong, like driving to the restaurant you’ve picked, and finding out it’s closed, or the food isn’t good. Even though the other person/people typically handle it well, I still feel really freaked out. What I’ve been trying to work on is thinking about how I would feel in their situation (which is not upset), and trying to convince myself that that’s probably how they feel. Basically, I’m trying to convince myself that they are telling me the truth when they say it’s okay. It helps that every time a situation like this has happened with my boyfriend, he’s been super amazing.

  12. There is something I have never understood about “JOY”. If person A puts person B ahead of themselves, then person B is putting themself ahead of person A. Therefor, “JOY” hinges on at least one person being selfish. For example, Jack needs a ride to the airport but Jill needs to study. If both follow JOY, Jack would never dream of asking Jill for a ride but on the other hand, Jill would feel compelled to drive Jack. Ergo, one or the other would have to routinely impose on the other. Is that how it works in actual practice?

  13. Hang in there! I can’t remember where exactly, but I remember reading a line to the effect of “There are people who ache to hold the reins of their own lives”, and you are one of them. If you weren’t, you would not have taken the steps to leave “The Movement” the way you did. Overcoming a bad habit takes time, and even when you begin to succeed, you can relapse again later, so keep doing your best and it *will* get easier and more natural.

  14. May I suggest making a list of things you like, so when he does ask, you have options right in front of you to refer to? I have a somewhat similar problem, choice paralysis. When I am asked “what do you want?” the unlimited number of options makes me freeze up. I personally have three food lists that I now keep in my head. Things I can cook, Places to go out, and fast/freezer food.

    I hope this helps.

  15. Haha, I know how you feel. I now make my own money and pay for my own things. You’d guess then that I can choose how to spend any extra spending money, but sometimes wind up feeling guilty for treating myself to “too nice of things” like clothes that are “frivolus/too pretty”, or the purfume that I put back because even though I really liked it, it wasn’t “needed.” My mind nags “You should eather be shopping for something usefull or shopping for others, not spoiling yourself! even though it is money I have worked for and earned myself it still makes me feel selfish to buy nice things unless of course it’s for someone else.

    • Very same thing here! I tend to buy really really nice gifts for friends, I don’t even look at the price as long as it’s perfect. When it comes to myself I feel bad about buying the body lotion that smells better but costs 50 cent more…

  16. I’m so late to this party, but THANK YOU. I am 30 and only just realized I have exactly this problem. I can’t choose what I actually want for myself, big or small; life goals or daily choices. Unfortunately, my Catholic mother and my abusive boyfriends found this deferring, submissive behavior as a sign of how much of a “good girl” I was. Thanks for standing up to this and you are truly blessed to have a man in your life that wants to help you through it. I’ve spent a lifetime with people who have loved to exploit it.

    • It’s good to know that me sharing this helped you! Don’t worry, you’re by far not the only one with this problem. I hope you’ll come back – and I hope you being late wasn’t that bad! 🙂

  17. DON’T be so hard on yourself! You wish you were different while others wish they were more like you. I get into a “groove”. I like to focus on something and not be bothered or interupted. Not being more flexible takes a toll on my parenting, and really,, if I admit it in daily life. If you are comfortable being flexible it is a gift! Don’t feel shamed for it.

  18. Pingback: Worthwhile Reads: On J.O.Y. and Religious Homeschooling

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