We all have origin stories because we are superheroes in our own lives. Part of our empowerment journey involves looking at our early conditioning so we choose consciously for creating our next chapters living authentically. We begin Season 3 with Clare asking Rachel about her upbringing as a Mormon. She opens up on how this affected her and what she learned was “normal” regarding how a woman should think, act, and dress. Five years ago, Rachel and her husband Steve left the Mormon Church. We talk about what she has had to relearn and how she now loves the world and herself more.
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Rachel’s Story: How Origin Stories Shape Our Lives
This is Season 3, and we are pivoting a bit. We are always about female empowerment and thriving female sexuality, whether you are single or with a partner or partners. We are also widening our focus in Season 3 to include more topics that will help you feel confident, empowered, and connected to your amazing body. In this episode, we start with an origin story of sorts, I told Rachel. Rachel, say hello.
I’m a superhero. Now, we need my origin story. That’s what Marvel in Cinema does.
I told her I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and it was all about Rocket’s origin story. I have been thinking about this. It’s helpful for every person, but women in this case, to understand and take a look at what are some things that formed some of your views and which can also be some of your limitations. If we don’t even look at it and pull up the hood, we don’t know sometimes why we act and think certain ways.
I want to make Rachel be in the hot seat. I wanted to have some readers maybe relate to some of the things or be in awe of how much Rachel has gone through to be the amazing person that she is now. How much she had to go around, over, under, and through to overcome some of the deep conditioning that was happening in her childhood. I got to learn some of this because I want to brag a little bit about you. You finished your Bachelor’s Degree. When is your graduation?
The end of June 2023. It might have passed by the time this comes out. I might be a full-fledged graduate.
Thanks. I have a bottle of champagne in my wine fridge ready.
We do need to celebrate, as we talked about in Season 1, Episode 13, celebrate. It’s important for our nervous system to mark completion points and celebrate ourselves instead of pushing to the next thing. Part of your thesis for your Bachelor’s was you wrote and told us more. It’s called your what? Did you have to write?
I started my degree when I was eighteen, fresh out of high school, and dropped out for reasons that I’m sure we will get to very soon. It always niggled at the back of my mind. Even though, at the time, I was sure I was doing the right thing. It still made me sad to not do it because I loved it. I loved being at university. If I were a un a person without children, a partner, or whatever. I would be in academia forever. I would do a Master’s, then a PhD, then I would do another PhD, and I’d be a university lecturer. I love academia. I love learning. I was sad to finish it.
When I went back, this is where we had to do the maths. The gap was sixteen years between dropping out of university and going back, which is a long time. It can’t possibly be because I’m so young. I took a normal semester. I took creative writing. A normal module in creative writing. I loved it. I was getting good marks, and my tutors were loving it. I followed that path to the end.
My dissertation was a little bit different. It was a creative writing dissertation, and I wrote a memoir piece because a few years ago, I left the church that I was raised in. It was a very rich and literary term. It was a rich playground to write about, let’s say. There were a lot of feelings, and a lot of things happened. It was almost a full circle moment going back to university to finish my degree and writing about that experience of leaving.
When I read some of that, because I got to see some of the drafts, I was in awe of some of these stories. The way you wrote about it made me smell and see the little yellow cloth or whatever that is. I forgot. What did you say you found the little yellow piece of candy or something? I’m not sure about it. We don’t have it in America, but let’s get into this. An origin story is something.
You told me that you would like to focus a little bit on things that are on brand for our show. That has to do with, I said, body image but with your sexuality and your role as a woman. Let’s get into some of that, shall we? I wish we could make this into a movie, and it would start right away with little Rachel. Give us some examples of what was the overarching theme in your religion that you grew up with. What is the role of a woman?
I want to caveat this whole episode and say, at some points, I’m going to say things that are true for the whole religion. Some things I’m going to say which are true for me and my experience of it. Those are different because there are things that are explicitly said and taught and things that you experience that are more implicit. If you have experience of the same church as I do and your experience is different. That’s fine, but this is still my experience. I hope that it’s clear when I’m saying things.
It’s your origin story.
I hope that I make it clear that this is how I felt and this is what is true. I hope that we have made that clear. The full name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is such a long name. When I was young, we called ourselves Mormons. The prophet has said not to do that. It’s a victory for Satan every time we do that. The prophet, when I was young, said that was a good thing, so I’m going to say Mormon.
Growing up very much so the role of women. I had an interesting discussion with my tutor for my dissertation because I used the word patriarchy. What she found fascinating, which I never realized, was fascinating. While I was young, most people heard the word patriarchy and they thought patriarchy needed to be disrupted or changed as a wielding of power that’s not equal.
They have bad connotations of that word. To me, growing up, patriarchy was the goal. Men have what we call the priesthood, which is the Power of God and women don’t have access to it. There’s some tiny token but not really. Men preside over women. When you go to the temple, you make covenants. My covenant was to obey my husband and his covenant was to obey God.
It goes to God, then to man and women below. That is the order of things in this patriarchal society. The governance of the church is day-to-day. It is men who rule everything and make all decisions. Women can rule over children and to some extent, over other women but even in those spheres. They can still be overruled by a man always at any point. There were all these teachings. I didn’t mind that when I was young because I’d been taught to accept it so much. It wasn’t until I was much older that it bothered me.
You swim in the water. That was your water.
When I was young, what bothered me was all the teachings about what a woman should be and that she should be gentle. She should be soft-spoken, meek, mild, and caring. She should be a nurturer. However, female leaders in the church have very sweet, soft, and high voices. The most that I could achieve would be to be soft, quiet, little, and dainty.
I was not any of those things. I never was. I so wanted to be. It made me like a child who can’t believe that their parent is wrong and so blames themselves for everything. I was a child who didn’t know that the church was wrong and blamed myself for being loud, big, smart, and all of those things that I am. I blamed myself. I hated myself for being so big and so loud for this deep voice for my big booming laugh. I hated myself for all of that. When I grew up, I was too much.
That is a theme that a lot of women will talk about feeling like they are too much. You had very specific things that your culture was telling you, and you didn’t fit. You ended up turning on yourself and disliking how you didn’t fit into that role because we all have that need to belong. When we don’t, we try to adjust so that we won’t be cast out of the tribe.
Belonging is so important. I felt very watched and very judged. I told you this story as we were preparing to do this episode. When I was young, in the late ‘90s, early noughties. I was a teenager, and the fashion was those hipster jeans that you nearly needed to shave your pubes to wear. They were so low and the little belly tops, and I’m 6 feet tall, which makes the length of my body even longer still.
There are very strict modesty rules. Your shoulders are covered. Your cleavage and your stomach are covered. Above your knee is covered. I was explicitly taught that my wearing the immodest clothes would distract the young men. It would make them think of sexual thoughts. It would be my fault if they looked at me and I was showing cleavage, and they got distracted, and they had sexual urges. That was my fault for wearing clothes that were immodest.
The fashion for hipster jeans and little tops, I was in the corridor at church, and I had raised my arm and made my shirt go up a bit. An older married woman grabbed my T-shirt and yanked it down so that it covered my belly again. I felt so shamed so publicly. I was standing and talking to other girls. There were people around, so publicly shamed, and I felt like people were watching me all the time to see if I was being good.
It got tired. I got tired of being good. No, I didn’t. The funny thing is I never got tired of being good because you get praised for being good and, “Rachel, she’s so spiritual. She knows all her scriptures. Rachel always goes to seminary every morning.” Before high school, we went to this early morning seminary class. We would leave the house at 7:00 in the morning to go study scriptures before church. “Rachel is the class president in her young woman’s class.” You get you get rewarded for being good but that’s not always a good thing.
You are following a script. The script was telling you these things, and you obeyed them, and you did well because you have a drive to succeed. The script was not the one that’s truly for your good. It was good for that organization. Your body is taller than the average body. You just want to be a teenager and you had an experience that you did something wrong and you shouldn’t be showing your body. As you said, that’s some heavy stuff to get into your psyche about that it’s your fault if men have sexual urges. That’s one that I feel like a lot of the women’s collective have had to internalize.
I do believe that is changing. The modern talk around that is a bit more enlightened. That doesn’t mean that women who are a little bit older don’t have to grow up just because we are hearing something different now. What we grew up with is the story that imprinted itself into our minds. That’s hard to shift if you grew up with hearing that it’s your fault or you are wrong. Even if nowadays people are being told something different. That’s still your story and that’s hard to shake. Being a horny teenager is tricky.If you grew up hearing everything is your fault, that mindset will be hard to shake even if you are told something different nowadays. Click To Tweet
I love that you are going there.
The only thing that is worse than having sex or doing anything sexual outside of marriage. Heterosexual marriage only, by the way. The only thing worse is murder. That is the only sin greater than sex outside of marriage. It’s second only to murder, which is pretty damn serious. There is a fantastic talk that the church has stopped using now because it’s so crazy. They have realized that it’s crazy. That was given worldwide, globally, to all young men because we don’t talk about sex with girls. After all, girls don’t have sexual urges of their own.
We only have these sex talks with boys because girls are asexual. I’m saying that all with severe irony. I hope you can tell. The little factory talk has become infamous amongst Mormons. He talks about a little factory that operates inside young men that God has given you. They have the power to create life. As we move closer to manhood, he says, “This little factory will sometimes produce an oversupply of this substance.” The substance he’s talking about is semen.
“The Lord has provided a way for that to be released. It will happen without any help or with any resistance from you. Perhaps, one night, you will have a dream. In the course of it, the release valve that controls the factory will open and release all that is excess. He might fondle himself and open that release valve, this you shouldn’t do,” and it goes on. “Resist that temptation. If this will leave you feeling depressed and feeling guilty. Do not be guilty of tampering or playing with the sacred power of creation. It is not pleasing to the Lord. Nor is it pleasing to you. It does not make you feel worthy or clean.” What do you think about that? Is that a good way to talk to men?
No. Is that empowering for men about their sexuality? No.
It always comes back to worthiness and cleanliness. If you want to be worthy and clean, you don’t touch yourself. You don’t touch anybody else. Not clothed. Not unclothed. You do not touch because that is for the creation of life only and you will be unclean. What happens to 99.9% of horny teenagers? They are going to break those boundaries. They just are, then they are going to believe.
You feel like they are going to go to hell. You have associated something pleasurable with, I have broken a big vow or I have created a way that I’m not going to get to heaven.
A lot of my friends and people that I know struggled to switch mindsets from, “Sex is bad. I’m not allowed to do it,” to suddenly, “I’m married and I should be having sex. I should do it all the time.” A lot of my friends struggled with that switch. I didn’t and I owe that to my parents, who, in one way, did set a good example of sex for me. I know that they had sex throughout my childhood because I was in the bedroom next door. I could hear. However, that was unpleasant and uncomfortable, for me, as a child. I do think that what it did was teach me that sex is normal and loving couples do it. That’s part of their expression of their love. I think that way. Well done, Mom and Dad. You did well. Thanks for having sex.Sex is normal and loving couples do it. That’s a part of the expression of their love. Click To Tweet
When I work with a couple, they are trying to create more intimacy. I do bring up the fact that your children are always looking at how you interact and it’s a great conversation. What was your reader, your experience of your parents when you were growing up? Did they hold hands? Did they kiss in public? Did you see your dad grab your mom’s ass or pat her on the butt as she walked by? There are all sorts of ways. It’s the energy. The flavor of what was their interaction.
When you have no great role models for an intimate loving way of physical or glances or little laughs between you that show there’s that intimacy without being overtly sexual with anything in front of the kids. That’s a whole different story than, “No, it was a peck on the cheek. When I came home and a peck on the cheek and when I left.” What is your origin story? How do you hear and how do you hear your parents banging on the wall of your bed next door?
I have a girlfriend and I’m not going to name her. I love it because out of all of the girlfriends, she and her husband, I think she got married when she was 21. We are 60, so that means 40 years of marriage they are celebrating. I always loved hearing how he would write her poems and send them to her little rhymes in a text.
It was several years ago. She got up to go to the bathroom with another girlfriend of ours. The male, a friend of my girlfriend said that her husband said, “Isn’t she just so beautiful.” You are thinking, “How do they make these people?” The funny thing is this couple loves to talk about how embarrassed their kids are about. Openly they love each other and they like, “Here’s the tie on the doorknob. Do not come in. Mom and Dad are doing it.”
That’s a different origin story. I’m feeling the need to say this one which isn’t your origin story but when I heard a friend tell me this. I thought, “This woman could be ruined for life in terms of how she ever thinks that interaction intimacy between a husband and a wife or two partners, that it’s sacred and it’s respectful.” She said she would come home and would find her father passed out, pants down, hands on his penis, and the porn had ended. It was like the screen.
She’d come home. She’s a teenager and she’d have to walk by this so many times on a Saturday night. How does that put any imprint on you of respect? I’m not saying anything bad about masturbation or anything like that. I’m saying these are these odd things of like we don’t know where you are getting what your origin story is, reader.
The point of this show is to get people to maybe think about it and talk about it with someone else. Share your story with a girlfriend in terms of what are some key points of things that shut me down a little bit or didn’t give me the message that I am powerful, that I am a goddess. I deserve to be lavished with attention and care. These are the things that our origin stories. They imprint on us and it takes a lot. You and I love to do self-help work.
It takes a lot to undo some of these imprintings that we got. That was the point of this episode is to point out that we don’t get to choose those things. We are too young to know any better. We are too young to say, “This seems a little odd here.” We are going to take everything as this is normal. Even if it’s the worst. You get beaten, molested, or whatever. You are going to, as a child, who’s under, say, whatever, age of seven. They say our brain state is so open that we don’t even see that there’s a difference between us and them. We are all part of a unit and this is who we are and we want to belong so badly.
My mind just went blank. I had something in there I wanted to say, but it’s gone.
I don’t know if individuals know but you got to marry your childhood sweetheart or your teenage sweetheart, Steven. You both grew up in this Mormon culture. You said it was a few years ago that you both left the church.
What do you want to say about that or what do you want to say in terms of rewriting this chapter of what you are this empowered woman? We have our empowered tattoos. We are moving into this phase of stepping more into our authentic selves. That means questioning some of the ways we were imprinted without knowing we were and trying to let go of the things that hold us back.
I know you and Steven are great partners with this. You are on the same page as you have talked about in other episodes when you first got married. You were programmed. It’s about his orgasm. When you first got married, it was like, that was what you were going for and it took a couple of weeks. Finally, Steven is saying, “Hey,” and that’s why when you went to.
We went to the big store. We went to the toy shop. He was like, “You are having an orgasm. If it’s the last thing I do.”
That’s great when you can find a partner. It helps undo some of the imprinting a lot faster.
I think there have been little pivotal moments, and that is such a good indicator of what a gem my husband is. When I was about 21 then had a, when I was about 23, which is quite young to be having children. I don’t like it. You are welcome to have your choices but for me, I have not spent time becoming a fully-fledged person in my own right yet.
I had been so focused on getting married because that was the pinnacle of what a woman can achieve, which is to get married and have children. If you don’t get married and have children, then you will not get into the highest degree of heaven because you have to be married to get into heaven. You will have a sad existence. That’s what I was taught to the extent that, as a teenager, we were having these young women’s lessons and classes. We were designing our wedding dresses and choosing our bridesmaid colors. We were so wedding-focused.
We were babysitting the church members’ children so we could have experience with children. We were learning how to cook and do all those things because all we could achieve was to be a wife and a mother. At 24 or 25, suddenly, I’m a wife and I’m a mother. I think, “What now?” I hadn’t thought beyond that about who I would be for the rest of my life or what I would do with the rest like, “I’m a wife and I’m a mother, but I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what my favorite band is. I’m not sure what my favorite color is.” I don’t know so many things about who I am because I have not developed who I am because I have been so focused on finding a husband and making babies.
I did it and I had. I call it my quarter-life crisis. I changed the clothes that I wore, and I started wearing things that were more colorful. If you see me in real life, I’m generally in fairly bright colors. What was nice about that was when I did that, Steven went, “There you are. I don’t know why you are wearing all those preppy clothes or trying to be posh. This is the colorful person that I knew you were. Nice to see you.” You had seen through that I was trying to become this person that I thought he wanted, but he wanted me. That’s it.
I love that story.
He’s a good boy, isn’t he? That played into our journey out of the church. Me developing who I was as a person and thinking, “I need to be somebody.” Somebody who isn’t a wife or somebody on top of being a wife or somebody on top of being a mother. One day my children will leave, and my husband will go to work. I need to have an identity of my own to have for myself. That maybe was part of what led me to question things.
When things didn’t feel good, to say, “This doesn’t feel good.” As we were saying, it’s easier for a child to accept that they are wrong than their parents. It was easier to accept that I was wrong rather than the church was wrong. Speaking to Steven and expressing my feelings to him was quite challenging. Some of the things I was expressing were about things like patriarchy, and he was like, “I’m part of the patriarchy.” There were some challenging conversations, but he got there.
He took time to understand me. We had very different journeys out of the church. The way that I sum up is that he was concerned with what was true. I was concerned with what felt good. To him, it was important to know what the absolute truth was. To me, the truth was less important than the fact that I felt bad, and it made me feel bad. Being able to come together and for me to say, “I don’t like this,” and him to go, “I could see that. I don’t like this.” Me to go, “I could see that.”
You weren’t alone in convincing yourself that you were wrong, crazy, or bad. You gave us both a bit of perspective to go, “Maybe this is not me. Maybe I’m not wrong or sinful or not trying hard enough. Maybe it is not me. Maybe it is something else that we need to look at. Maybe it’s not right for us, and we decided to leave together because it felt like a divorce. We didn’t want the children to be choosing which parent to be with on a Sunday morning.
We were always quite sure we wanted to be a team. One of the last things that got us out was looking at our oldest and being like, “I’m fairly sure that kid’s queer. I’m pretty sure that kid’s going to be queer,” and we were right. He very much is. He’s trans. People will put up with a lot for themselves but when it’s their children, they have to protect them. That’s going to motivate you to act. It wasn’t that. That’s not the reason why we left in and of itself, but that was the motivation we have to protect our child and get him away from this.People will put up with a lot for themselves. But when it comes to their children, they are motivated to act at once to protect them. Click To Tweet
I’m with you. I hear everything that you said. I’m compelled. I feel the depth of that. It’s such a big thing to do, the divorce part. You are divorcing yourself from something, the only thing you knew and your parents, both sets of parents. Were you in the church, or are you in the church? It’s a big thing. I don’t think you could have done it without being a team with Steven.
It would have been very difficult to divorce Steven and the church. That would have been as traumatic as it was to leave the church. To do it with Steven by my side was much easier, but I had removed from me, or I removed myself, I guess, from, I know who I am, where I came from, why I’m here, where I’m going, and what the point of everything is. I know the answers to all of the questions, then suddenly, I have no answers to any questions.
The fear of who am I if I’m not a Mormon? Who am I because it guided so many things what I read and watched, who I talked to, how I spent my time, my money, how I dressed myself, what I ate and drank. It governed every part of my life, and I wasn’t sure who I would be in my dissertation. I get a bit melodramatic because I’m allowed to. I talked about it as this steel core. My skeleton was this built steel core of support that was hallmarked Mormon through this steel core. If I were to tear that from myself, the fear was that I would be like a soggy, crumpled pile of skin on the floor without my steel core. It was so terrifying.
What were some of the things that you are untethered, a soggy gelatinous mess on the floor without your steel core? What are some of the things you did to go to the light to support yourself? What are the things that were those beginning steps for you?
One of the things that I have now, instead of a steel core, which is very heavy to cart around. I have a core of the best days. A core of golden light. That light is playful, curious, and excited that I don’t know all the answers because there are so many possibilities and so many wonders and beautiful things. I get to just greet everybody, greet their light, share my light with them, and have those interactions that aren’t weighed down by that heavy steel inside me that told me how to be whom to like and whom to associate with, and who to not associate with. The price I had to pay for that surety was heavy.
Now I feel light, and I love the world more. I love people more because I don’t feel the need to judge them or categorize them. I get to be lighter and love people more. By extension, I get to love myself more. However, some of the conditioning was hard. The first time I ever wore a strappy top that showed my cleavage. I put the top on and went to go out, and I didn’t make it to the front door before I turned around and changed into something that didn’t quite show quite so much cleavage. I attempted to wear that top about 6 or 7 times before I made it out the door with it on and then getting tattoos.
That was another thing of, “This is my body, and I get to decide what goes on it and what happens to it. It’s mine.” I was taught that my body was not mine. That it was Jesus’s because he had paid the price for it. It was his, and I was to take care of it, but no, it’s mine. I get to draw on it if I want to, and I get to shake it if I want to.
Those are good. You are a work in progress, but you give me so much hope. When did you notice that? How long did it feel before you felt this golden light that replaced the heavy?
I am sure that the first time I felt the golden light was when you were leading a group program. I was in your group program. You were encouraging us to meditate every day. You were making us plank every day. That was the first time I experienced a golden rod of light that went down my core, and it was such a beautiful experience.
It’s something that I held onto and try to remember and capture. I have so much fun investigating. The whole world and every belief, religion, philosophy, and theory is a playground for me to learn about and gather and pick up the bits I like. Leave the bits I don’t like because I get to do that now. It’s this field of gems and jewels that I get to scatter around.
Possibility. Readers, I just found out that Rachel and I have the same Myers Briggs profile that we are both ENFPs, so extrovert and intuitive versus using our five senses and feeling versus thinking like you said that you told Steven. How does it feel? That’s part of how you make your decisions. Not more logical. It makes sense that part of what drew us to one another is to appreciate one another and inspire one another.
Part of it is that it’s this curiosity that I have always had of that. There are so many possibilities. What I’m hearing is that you didn’t have those. It must feel good in the last few years, other than the fact that it’s scary as shit to cut yourself from something that is your anchor, and like you said, when you start seeing that you won’t die and that your natural curiosity got to be explored. That is one of the things that keeps us bonded to each other.
We will keep doing this show for the next coming years talking about whatever is fun for us because we are curious. I do believe from the mindfulness work that I have done that you can get past that critical part of you if you can be open to and curious about that critical part. Why do I have that critical part? Was there a role?
Instead of trying to squash the things that don’t fit with how you either were raised or make you very uncomfortable. That curiosity can take someone quite far. I wanted to point out that I’m so happy that I found out we are twinsies in that way. Not that differences don’t make things interesting, too, but it is fun to find the things that are similar.
I have a last thought that I would love to share with readers. It was advice from Steve. We have all agreed as a legend. When I was a Mormon, I had to wear this underwear that was special sacred underwear. It was not pretty. It was not cute. It was uncomfortable. It chafed and rubbed. You can’t wear sanitary with it. You can’t breastfeed with it.
It made me feel horrible to wear it. I have sensory issues, and I hated wearing it. Again, I did that thing of assuming it was because I was bad, prideful, rebellious, wrong, not humble enough, and not patient enough. It’s me. Steven said to me one day, “What if you are right?” It was like I had never considered that even could be a possibility.
My advice to you, my lovely readers, is what if you are right? What if those niggling worries, feelings, or things that you are unhappy with, that you want to change, that you need, that you need to ask for or you need to do more of or less of? What if you are right? You should do the thing or ask for the thing or say the thing. What if you are right? Instead of assuming that you are wrong all the time and you are broken or too emotional or too whatever, or not enough of whatever. What if you are all right, just as you are?
I love that. You are going to make me cry because that’s the perfect thing to say. What if you are right? That’s that curious part to be a little bit open to because I know that our intuition does guide us, but most of us have been told we shouldn’t be listening to that. We should be logical. We should be looking outside of ourselves. You nailed it. That was beautiful.
I didn’t even pre-plan that. That just happened.
This is a good place to wrap it up. Rachel’s little teaser of some of her origin, the things that make her who she is, and we are all on a journey, and our chapters are not written. We get to work on rewriting new chapters and making sure we integrate, bless, and not try to erase the beginning origin chapters because they make us who we are. If we have the spiritual philosophy that everything is unfolding for our highest good. There are some reasons that all of this has happened, and sometimes we don’t understand it until we get further down the road and can look back.
Thank you, readers, for taking this journey with us. We will have another episode where Rachel will interview me, and I will have to come up with some of my origin stories. If you would love to give us some feedback on what you would like to see more of, we have an email that you can send us any comments directly or suggestions for topics. That is EnchantingPodcast@Gmail.com, and you can find us on Instagram, @Permission_Podcast. Rachel, thank you for sharing some of the intimate details of your life. We will talk again next time.
Yes, we will. I love you. Thank you.
I love you too. Bye.