I wrote my memoir eighteen years ago, because I felt it imperative to tell my life story so that long after my demise, my future generations would know and remember their grandmother. Having no more than a ninth grade education, I felt inadequate to share my story with those outside my immediate family. Though it was heart wrenching and at times embarrassing to reveal every incident and my innermost feelings, I decided I had to bare every aspect of my life. Pushing my fear of incompetence aside, I began writing, letting the words spill from my heart to the paper. The emotions evoked by the memories brought me to tears. At times, the mental anguish I felt as I relived each moment was so severe I wailed out loud.
I remember one day when I was about two-thirds of the way through writing the book, my husband Hector returned from the post office to find me sitting at my desk. I was gasping, my body heaving as deep breaths of agony washed over me again and again. My whole body trembled as I tried to regain control of myself. Never before had I displayed such sorrow to him. Not knowing what to do, and at a complete loss of words, my dear husband felt incapable of comforting me. Putting his arms around my convulsing body, and holding me tightly in his arms, he said "Are you about through Sweetheart?", as he tried to console me. The magnitude of the years of hidden anguish that erupted as I relived those times, caught both Hector and me completely by surprise.
I doubled both fists (surprising myself), and pounded violently on the desk. "No, it's not over," I howled, resuming my moaning cries, "I still have FIVE more wives and a nervous breakdown to go!!!" It was at this time that I wondered if I could really handle reliving all the searing hidden memories. However, it was from that moment on that a healing began to take place within me. No longer being forced to live in denial, I could now face my inner demons.
Upon finishing the book, I dedicated it to my oldest daughter Donna and relaxed, knowing it was in safe keeping. Without my knowledge, Donna allowed her pastor and his wife to read the manuscript. They were blown away by my story, telling Donna, "we stayed up all night reading because we just could not put it down!"
Word spread quickly, and soon, more than twenty ladies from the church had read it and had the same reaction. "Donna, your mother has a bestseller!"
Trying to educate herself with the publishing world, Donna took writing classes and submitted my manuscript to several publishers. Soon, she had more than twenty rejections, but her passion to see me become a published author was not dampened!
After twelve years of diligently pursuing our goal to see the manuscript published, Donna called me in Mexico. "Mom, you've got to come back to California immediately. We need to work on getting your book published."
"Donna," I said, "I want you to know that just five days ago, I got on my knees and I surrendered the book to God in prayer. If it's His will to get it published, nothing can stop it. If it's not His will, nothing we can do will make it happen. I just want His will to be done."
Twenty minutes after my conversation with Donna, I went to see my daughter-in-law Sandy, who I frequently got together with for coffee. To my surprise, her daughter Margaret appeared in the kitchen, looking very tired and groggy. "Hi Grandma," she said, as she embraced me. "Sorry I look like this. I slept in. I got home late last night."
"I hear you flew on an airplane for the first time. I thought you were afraid of flying?"
"I was," she laughed. "But, I sat by the nicest man. He talked to me during the entire flight, and all my fears just vanished."
"What did you both talk about?"
"He asked me if I had read any good books lately. I replied, 'Joel Osteen's Live Your Best Life Now.' He looked a bit surprised, smiled at me, and told me he was glad that I had enjoyed it. Then he told me, 'I'm Joel Osteen's literary agent.'"
No sooner had those words left my granddaughter's mouth, than I felt goose bumps popping up everywhere as my body tingled all over. In my heart I knew at that moment that this man would somehow be my agent also.
"Did he give you a card? How can we contact him?"
"He sure did and I'll give it to you."
Bursting with excitement, I immediately called Donna in California. When I told her the amazing story she rejoiced, "Mom, if I have ever known anything before, I know it now. This is a God-thing and it's meant to be! Joel Osteen's literary agent will be your agent too."
When I hung up, Donna immediately called Tom Winters' office in Tulsa. After almost an hour of conversation with his assistant Debby, she asked Donna if she could email her my manuscript. Soon after receiving it, she called back, "Donna, we have forty proposals on my desk being considered for representation. We're headed to New York to present only three of them...and your mother's is going to be one of them." The rest is glorious history!
My power of choice lay dormant for over forty years. I did not know that I had the power to choose. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1937 to a Mormon Polygamist. My mother was the second of his eventual six wives.
Somehow, fate lost me in the shuffle of my father's thirty-one children. I searched for definition among my numerous siblings. I soon found my sense of humor attracted their attention. I learned to laugh, even through tragedies, to survive.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) relinquished plural marriage in 1890, in order that Utah could gain statehood. Therefore the Fundamentalists would remain firm in their original faith, even though it threatened their membership in their mother church.
My future depended on my identity with this polygamous group. We were taught total dependence on family and to follow the strict edicts of our forefathers. It was impressed upon my supple mind to listen only to our leaders, who knew better than us, how to live our lives and obtain our salvation. We were warned not to talk to strangers and to never reveal our identity or family affairs to anyone. I learned to deny my feelings because I soon realized it was not conducive to my welfare to be me.
Being a child of a cult had a bad connotation. We were looked upon with ridicule and suspicion. I learned early to not trust outsiders, who we considered evil. Women were devalued. They were merely the breeding stalk, which kept the movement expanding and alive. Those who produced the greatest number of children were used as righteous examples and given accolades.
The fear of Hell restrained me. Like a mule, I allowed myself to be emotionally hobbled. Blindly pursuing our cult's ideals and dreams, I offered myself as a necessary tool in my polygamist husband's illusion to further his grandeur and glory. My sole purpose (I was told) was to be obedient, by giving my husband wives and also to be sure I replenished the earth. We were warned to not let a year go by without seeing that a child was born under "the covenant." Soon I was popping kids out like popcorn. I'd given birth to thirteen children, all single births, before I turned thirty-five.
I'd been tempted momentarily by the "world's ways," but I was taught that monogamy would only bring me pain and suffering. The only happiness I could anticipate was in this world. Throughout all eternity, I would be damned for not living polygamy.
No one was more committed to these religious ideals than I was. How, after all the years of being in a religious coma, could I just walk away? I was totally unprepared to live in an unknown environment, with the responsibility of a dozen or more children and no one to turn to. Taking my first step away from mental slavery was excruciating. How could I ever make a stand when I had never listened to my own inner longings? Little did I know that the continual inner cries for "something more" were nudges from the Divine.
I think that I have accumulated more religion than most people accumulate in a lifetime. Like other polygamous woman, I was sincere. But I now see that I was sincerely wrong. I've taken a stand to speak out, not only for myself, but for every woman whose voice, through fear, has been silenced.