Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Years Resolutions I might actually do:

to do list:
1. Make vanilla pudding. Put in mayo jar. Eat in public.
2. Hire two private investigators. Get them to follow each other.
2. Wear shirt that says "Life". Hand out lemons on a street corner.
4. Get into a crowded elevator and say, "I bet you're all wondering why I gathered you here today."
5. Major in philosophy (or psychology works too). Ask people WHY they would like fries with that.
6. Run into a store, ask what year it is. When someone answers, yell, "It worked!" and run out cheering.
7. Become a doctor. Change last name to Acula. (I don't get this one. Feel free to explain it to me if you do.)
8. Change name to Simon. Speak in the third person.
9. Buy a parrot. Teach the parrot to say, "Help! I've been turned into a parrot."
10. Follow joggers around in your car blasting "Eye of the Tiger" for encouragement. (This one is my favorite).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Day After


My "Tuesday with presents" was even better than I could have imagined.
My Christmas tree. With presents under the tree. (They almost all fit.)
I went to my parents house and opened presents with my siblings and parents. It was nice and fun and relaxing. I was given gifts that felt like ME. Every single gift was perfect. I felt very loved. The book  (Elephant Whisperer) from my dad. The DVDs (Wild Horse, Wild Ride and Despicable Me) and dishes (something I've been looking at for a year) from Dann and Justin. The book (Hiking: Ruins Seldom Seen) from Jeff and Robyn. The game (Bananagrams) from Zack and Delta. The ornament (a teddy bear riding a stick horse) from my mom.

I also love watching by family open presents. Jeff gets so excited. I love watching Dann and my mom watch everyone else. I love the looks when someone opens a gift that is perfect. I also love the looks when someone opens a gift that isn't quite perfect, but they try to pretend like it was. I just love seeing everyone just being.
My brother built a fort of presents on top of me. There were more down around my feet.



BJ and I went to see Les Miserables together. I wanted to see the movie with him. I wanted to experience that story with him, because I wanted to talk about it all with him after. When we went to the play, he had a hard time following the story. In the movie, you can see their faces and understand their emotions better. I wanted to watch him watch the movie.

The movie was amazing. I've seen the student version of the play countless times. We went to see the professional version last year. I've listened to the CD a million times and played the music on the piano and in various orchestras. I forgot that I know the music and the story by heart. The actors were so incredible, I felt like I was hearing it all for the first time.

I love seeing movies with him, because of the way he draws parallels to his own life. He learns things everywhere he goes, and he listens when I talk about the things I thought. We sat and talked and cried after the movie. Then he went to spend more time with his kids and grandkids, and I went to visit my grandparents.

We all met back at my parents, and hung out for a little bit, and then he and I came home to open our presents to each other. We had decided we wanted to end the day together... I gave him his presents. He gave me a camera. A really nice one with two different lenses and a ton of camera-y functions. (I don't know the words for everything yet, and I definitely don't know how to use them, but I'm excited.)

He said he's been thinking about this gift for years. He appreciated my eye... the things I see, and he wanted to give me an even better way to capture what I see. I cried. I took out all the pieces: the lenses, the lensehood, the flash, the tripod, the carrying case for it all, the memory card, even the battery and charger, and cried with every piece.
My Christmas tree. After opening presents. It's in there somewhere, I swear.
Then this morning, I woke up and started crying again.
I have never asked for a camera. I love taking pictures. I love sharing the things that I see. I feel like there's a piece of me in every picture I take. We have several of the pictures I've taken hanging on our walls. Horses. Fishing. Mountains. Skies. They aren't bad, but I feel like I was just handed a tool that will make the things I see even more capturable (yeah, I just made that word up). He saw something I wanted, but I didn't even know I wanted it. That feels... good.

I feel SO loved. Not just by BJ. But by my parents and siblings (and their spouses). And Dann. And grandparents. And aunts and uncles and cousins. Sometimes, feeling loved is such a surprise, I feel overwhelmed. I still don't quite know how to handle it.

So, Merry Day After Christmas. Thank you for loving me, and for making the day even better than "just any other Tuesday, except with presents".

Friday, December 21, 2012

What would it look like if you weren't hiding?

There's been a growing frustration in my head.
It started as a nagging in the back of my mind, and has grown just a little each day. It suddenly got huge yesterday. I couldn't put it in words until I was talking to my sister.

She helped me find the words, "I feel like I'm hiding. I don't want to hide anymore."

That prompted a conversation with BJ. I told him what I had felt while talking to Mellen.
"I feel like I'm hiding, and I don't want to hide anymore."

He asked the question, "What would it look like if you weren't hiding? How would things be different?"

Not much. There's not much that would be different on the outside. The difference would be in my head. I spend a LOT of time trying to anticipate how everyone else will feel and what everyone else will do.

If I say this, will it make someone mad?
If I do this, will it hurt or offend someone?
If I do this, will she make life difficult for or hurt someone else I care about?
If I don't do that, will people be disappointed?
If I am this way, how will it affect them? How will that affect others?


So, how would it look if I wasn't hiding?

I'd be less worried, afraid, scared of angering people that will hate me no matter what I do. I'd be less concerned about what labels people attach to me, and just BE me. I wouldn't worry about how anyone else defines me or my relationships and just BE.

And I would just hold BJ's hand whenever we wanted to hold hands.


Monday, December 17, 2012

"At the right time, in the right light, everything looks extraordinary."



BJ and the pelicans.

The neighbors' sprinklers

Them just being them at a lake in Montana. This picture just makes me happy.








My favorite.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Just like any other Tuesday, except there's presents

Christmas. It's a hard time of year for me. I generally like to avoid it.

I haven't had a tree in three years. This year, BJ and I had talked about cutting down tree and having the horses help get it out. We never got the permit, so that didn't happen. Then we talked about buying a tree, but neither one of us have any decorations. No lights. No ornaments. Nothing. (I had a box of ornaments from an ornament exchange, but they got ruined.) We went to various stores (both together and separate) to find Christmas decorations that fit him, me, or us.

I had about given up. And then, by accident, I saw this:
Charlie Brown Christmas tree. With presents (Thanks to BJ's sister.)

I loved it. BJ loved it. It was perfect.
And for a moment, I forgot that I get stressed by Christmas. I got excited. I got all my Christmas shopping done in the next twenty minutes. (I love Amazon.)

Christmas could suddenly be what I wanted. There were no shoulds. No have-tos. No, "If you don't do it the way everyone else does it, there's something wrong with you." Just the question, What do YOU want?, and the answer can be anything.


Since that day, I've gone back to feeling anxious. Afraid I'm not doing it right. Pressured to try to make everyone happy. Depressed. Sad. Overwhelmed. Frustrated with myself for not being "normal". Angry at myself for feeling sad and depressed.

So now, besides my funny little satirical tree, I'd like to make some other changes to my Christmas season. No more anxiety. No more expectations. No more guilt. No trying to make everyone happy. No trying to hang on to "normal".
I'd like to let go of all of that.

Maybe it could just be like any other Tuesday. Except there's presents.


Blerg.


On my mind is Christmas, Pants, tragedies in Connecticut, and a few other thoughts that won't leave me alone.

What's the most important thing to write about?
I don't know.
Which is why I haven't written anything yet.


Monday, December 10, 2012

An exercise in empathy (guest post from a friend)

The following was written by a friend of mine as a response to the church's new website.

From Esteban (a gay ex-Mormon)

"As a heterosexual, you've never had to even think about it. Because heterosexuality has never been deemed sinful in your life, you simply have always had the freedom to express yourself through touch, feel, affection, and sexual expression with anyone of the opposite sex. You've only had to stop yourself from full sexual realization until you were married, assuming you were actually able to do that. In other words, your sexual orientation was never in play as a possible threat to God, only your possible breach of sexual activity outside of marriage.

If your own desire for women/men was deemed a sin, you might begin to empathize with what it's like to be gay. Without telling yourself the story as to why gays are wrong per God's command to multiply and replenish the earth, imagine for just a moment if your desire right now inside you for women/men was sinful. Not just sinful outside of marriage, but sinful all the time, every minute of your life. Imagine that your deep core gender attraction itself was deemed an abomination.

Let's take this empathy exercise even further: Imagine for a moment that you were told that God only saw homosexual relationships as righteous and worthy. I know, it's hard, just try it for a moment. You wanted to please God, your parents, everyone around you. And you were told you could change your sexual orientation to be homosexual even though you're skeptical and know somehow that it might be impossible. But you know to be saved and to follow God's Plan, you must. And so you launch in to trying to like women/men with a reverent, God-centered mission. You even marry a person of the same sex and everything, but deep down you know you're kidding yourself and you start to want a person of the opposite sex, because let's face it, you're wired that way.

OK, back to your own life. That is never going to be your fight, but would you compare that empathy exercise of being attracted to the wrong gender the same as being addicted to drugs or alcohol? No, of course not, because love isn't a substance like drugs or alcohol. Your sexual attractions are hard-wired and you cannot change that.

Up until a few days ago, the Mormon Church told you that you were NOT born that way. That you were choosing somehow to be homosexual/heterosexual. But look now! The church is saying that you ARE born that way! Woah! That seems like a big change! That seems like it might be the answer to a lot of frustration and angst! So if you are a gay Mormon and you're now born that way, what changes for you?

Besides now being on the side of Lady Gaga, nothing changes for you. But wait! Why not? You were just told that you were born that way! That's freaking awesome, isn't it??? Well, lets examine it a bit closer:

So even IF you're born gay, the church still believes that ACTING on your core, born-with sexual orientation is still sinful. That hasn't changed. So if that hasn't changed, what has? Nothing has changed. You see, telling gay people they're born that way and still maintaining that homosexuality is sinful as an action hasn't changed at all.

Gay Mormons weren't waiting to be told they were born that way, gay Mormons were waiting to be told they're just as in un-sinful, valid, and valuable in God's eyes as heterosexuals are, even if they can't multiply and replenish the earth. You see, your sexual attraction to women/men was never about having babies in the first place, it was about being able to freely touch, feel, express, and fully sexualize your domestic relationship with your chosen partner. That whole "having babies" thing is superfluous to love, to loving the way you need it.

And so sadly, the new website, the new big change really isn't any change at all. When Lady Gaga sings about being born that way, she then goes on to sing about loving that way, too.

And so gay Mormons are just as stuck as they were before. The new big change is just a tragic sadness. It's a fa├žade. It's a new smile on the same old doctrine of pain and suffering. Can gay Mormons now go to church and hold hands with their domestic partners, their husbands, wives, and loving spouses? Can they hold them, kiss them, express to them how much they love them like all the other heterosexual couples God loves unconditionally? No.

As a matter of fact, IF a gay Mormon, whom are all now born that way according to Mormon leadership, actually try to love their partners, dates, spouses like those same Mormon leaders do, they'll be sinning. And not just sin because they're doing it outside of marriage, but because they can NEVER touch, feel, show affection, or have any sexual contact with them ever. Ever as in forever.

And not only that, but the Mormon Church believes that homosexuals will be corrected as part of the resurrection process to become a perfect heterosexual person. So what they're really telling you is to never have a relationship at all because you cannot ever love them eternally, even if you feel like you love someone that strongly. Even if you feel in love, a love as strongly as those Mormon leaders love their spouses.

Because IF you remain a celibate gay Mormon in love in this life with the person you wish to eternally love, your core being will be changed to heterosexual and you will not be able to love them anyway because they still believe homosexuality is a sinful abomination that must be changed.

You are born doomed. Forever doomed now that you're born that way. You see? Nothing has changed at all. Gay Mormons are just as doomed now as they were before this latest big change that hasn't changed a thing."

Love, the church PR dept (an angry rant on the church's 'gays and mormons' website)

I feel angry and sad and ANGRY. (You have been warned. I'm pissed.)

The church recently released a new website... A few of the straight Mormons I know are super excited about it. "SEE. Look. We are nice and loving. SEE!!!"

Many of the gay Mormons are not so excited. (At best, this as seen as a baby step. The hope is that MAYBE there will be less gay teens on the streets.)

This is what I see this page as:
An abusive man. He beats his wife. He degrades her. He makes her life a living hell. She stays because she knows nothing else. He beats her because that's what husbands do.

There are rumors that he is a wife-beater. He doesn't want to be known as that. He KNOWS he is a good, kind, wonderful man. People just need to understand him better.

So he puts out a website... all about how wrong it is to beat your wife. He talks about loving her and accepting her, but he makes sure to point out the sin of divorce.

The website is simple. It says, "don't beat your wife, but wives, stay with your husbands no matter how much he hurts you."

ALL of the wife-beaters LOVE the article. It's beautiful. Warm. Fuzzy. And makes them feel secure in their current relationships.
Many people look at the surface of it and say, "Well. It's an improvement. Baby steps. At least he's making some effort to change."
But the woman, the one who has been beat by that man over and over and over, she feels even more hurt, betrayed and disgusted.

She knows he hasn't changed. She knows he still beats his wife. She wishes he would just own that. If he would at least have the decency to be honest about who he really is, then she could get help. Now, when she tries to talk about the bruises and the pain, people point to his website and say, "No. He doesn't beat you. Look. It's right here - he talks about the evils of beating your wife. How can you say he beats you?"

A few months ago, I was asked to sign a petition asking the church to apologize for the things general authorities have said about black people. I refused. Not because I don't want to see the church apologize, but because I don't believe that people should grovel for an apology from them. If the church CARED about the people they have hurt, and they WANTED to make a change, I'm pretty sure they could figure out how to apologize and just do it.

If enough people signed a petition, and pushed them to apologize. (By making it more of a public relations nightmare by NOT apologizing.) They would apologize. But I don't want THAT. That kind of apology would be just as real as the abuser's apology. No REAL remorse... just a fear of the consequences.

The leaders of the church have to know that people have been hurt by racist statements made in the past. (And continued racist doctrine.) At this point, it isn't hurting THEM enough to give a damn.

Gay relations are different. They created a nightmare for themselves with Prop 8. The whole country is shifting, and the leaders of the church know it. If the internet had been around in the 1970's, I'm pretty sure there would have been a similar webpage. (Here's someone's idea of what it would have looked like.)

This website is a nice mask, but they are not changing their abusive ways one fucking bit. And I know, they have God on their side, which makes it okay to be ignorant... But if you're going to be ignorant, at least own it... but instead...
Dear Gay People,
We now are willing to say you were born that way, even though we have said something different many times for many years. (We weren't WRONG, we just can't have all the answers.)
We're also aware that marrying someone of the opposite sex is a bad idea. We won't push you to do that anymore.
So, now we just want you to live alone the rest of your life. Never hold hands. Never have a close intimate relationship with anyone. No sex. No family. Nothing. EVER.

Good news though, in the next life you can be happy. But don't kill yourself... That's not the answer... Just live for the next fifty years feeling lonely, isolated, and sad. We'll call you a hero if you do that.We admire the strength you have to keep on living when living is hell.

You're amazing.

And parents, don't shun or disown your children just because they are gay... but acting on their gayness is a sin, therefore you can't REALLY accept your gay child. You shouldn't love them as they are, you should try to change them into something that they're not... Because God's love is conditional like that. Oh. And Family. Family really is the purpose of life. (But only if your family looks like OURS does. Everything else is an abomination.)

We love you so much, can't you just feel it? (It probably means there's something wrong with you if this doesn't feel like love to you. You should probably do something to get over that.)

With love,
The church PR department (because we all know the General Authorities are going to keep saying the same old shit they have always said. And their shit will contradict our shit. Good luck trying to figure that shit out.)
Now that I'm done writing...
I understand I could probably effect more change and understanding if I said this differently... But I'm angry and I'm tired. I'm tired of talking softly, so that abusive assholes will listen. The truth is the abusive assholes WON'T listen. If I talk softly, they ignore it. And if I yell and scream and swear, they say, "You're too angry," and they dismiss me. So, right now, this isn't about them. It's just about me writing MY thoughts. (And letting you read them if you feel like it.)

Maybe I am being selfish with my angry rant. At this moment, it is more important to me to express my anger and my frustration than to help others. But I also want to help others... So, here is a list of posts from Clive Durham . He says what needs to be said without the sarcasm or the fuck word. (And if you didn't make it this far.... That's okay, I'll put this list in a new post too.)

I love gay people,...but...
I love and accept you, but…I don’t accept your homosexual lifestyle
I love you and accept you, but…you have to acknowledge that you’re broken and as a result, live your life the way I feel is best.
I love you and accept you, but…stay away from my children.
I love you and accept you, but…you must live your life alone, without love, companionship and intimacy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You are good. (or why I care so much about LGBT issues)

I get really passionate about LGBT issues.
A lot of people have thought I am gay/lesbian because I get so passionate. (I'm not.)
The question always comes next, "Then WHY do you get so worked up about it?"

Because I know what it's like to go through life feeling "less than". I know what it feels like to feel like I am unacceptable, bad, different, etc. I also know what it feels like to accept and love myself, and I want that for EVERYONE.

Everyone deserves to feel loved and accepted for who they are.

Today, Dan at Single Dad Laughing came out. His prayer, "Please God, don't let me be anything but straight," brought me to tears. Please read it. He describes the pain, fear, and confusion so well.

I thought of all the prayers I said, "Please God. Just make me different. Make me GOOD."
I also thought of the answer that finally came, "Jen, you don't have to change a thing. You are good just the way you are."

I want everyone to know, "You don't have to change a thing. You are good just the way you are."



Saturday, November 24, 2012

Check the facts... and then believe them

One of the skills I learned in therapy was "Check the facts".
Basically, although the emotions we feel are very real, sometimes the stories we tell ourselves that create those emotions aren't real.

A very simple example: No one has called me on my birthday, they don't love me, they don't care about me... Check the facts and find out your phone was off. Several people tried to call, but couldn't get through. They left voice messages. Suddenly the emotions are gone, because the story wasn't accurate.

One of the stories I believed came from another person. Lolly has said that my presence made people uncomfortable, everyone hated having me around, and I was hurting other people by being.

I believed her. I didn't question it. It didn't even cross my mind to use my skill of "checking the facts", because I really believed what she said was fact. BJ didn't believe her... He told me to talk to the people that supposedly hated me...

I was anxious. I was scared. I wanted to crawl in a hole. I didn't. The conversation went like this.
Me: I don't want to cause problems, or make things difficult for you and I know you care about Lolly, and I don't want to change that either... What I'm trying to get at is.... She said that you hate having me around, and that you don't want me here, but you are too nice to say anything. I want you to know if that's the case, I don't need you to be nice for nice sake, you can tell me to never come around again. You can be completely honest with me.

Claire: To be completely honest, before I met you, and I'd only heard Lolly's side, I didn't like you. I wouldn't have chosen to have you in my life... but... then I listened to more of the story, I met you, I spent time with you, and that is not how I feel at all. You're a sweetheart, and I'm glad I know you.

That conversation was several months ago. That should have been the end of it, but I still didn't believe her. It was easier to believe that I was hated, and Claire was just too nice to say so. Two months ago, she called to invite me to dinner in her home, and also said I was welcome ANY time. I still wouldn't believe her. Logically, I know that trusting Lolly to tell me what Claire thinks and feels, and NOT trusting Claire is irrational and silly... but it's hard to let go of the belief that people don't want me.

The truth is, it has nothing to do with Lolly or any of the stories she tells. I BELIEVE that I am not wanted. Deep down, I still play the same message that I have always played, "The world would be better off if you didn't exist." So, every time someone else agrees with that message, it breaks me apart. I believe the false story over the real story. I cling to it. (Like a fucking crazy person!) For whatever reason, it is scary to let go of that old belief... don't know why... I might figure that out later, but for now... I'd just like to let go.

I'm tired of believing the old shit. I'm tired of that old message. It wasn't true when I started believing it (whenever the hell that was), and it isn't true now. (I'm not saying that everyone loves me, that would be just as ridiculous, but I know I am loved. I also know that the people who tell me they love me now, can mean it, because I have let them get to know me.)



And... on top of it all, the one thing I know for sure: There is a lot of peace in knowing what IS, instead of pretending to know and believing what is NOT.
 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Living IS the point.

I got this in an email from a friend. He's been depressed lately, and he's trying to figure out why (and how to get over it.)
"I think the root of the whole problem is that I don't have a good answer to the question, "What's the point?" It seems to me that we're born, and then we live and then we die. It seems so unfair. Makes me want to cry.

So, I'm wondering if you've answered that question. If so, what's your answer? More importantly, what has been your process to answer that question? I know my answer will be different than yours, so while I'm interested in your answer, I'm much, much more interested in your process (assuming you've taken the time to answer that question since leaving the church)."
What's the point?

My only thought: LIVING is the point. We're born. We LIVE.

And the process I followed to get that answer?
I really didn't have to answer the question AFTER I left the church, because leaving was just part of the process.

As a member of the church, I was told what the point and purpose to my life should be. I was told "the plan", and I was told that plan was the ONLY plan that would bring happiness in this life and the next. I was told I was lucky to know "the plan", because most people on the planet don't know.

I didn't feel lucky... I felt like a square peg trying to force myself into a round hole. I felt depressed and anxious and miserable. So many things that I'd been taught just didn't make sense to me. The reality I saw didn't fit the ideals that I'd heard. I spent my life doing a list of things TRYING to make my life happy, but the list just made me more and more miserable.

Much of "the plan" left me feeling miserable and hopeless in this life, but there was always the idea that if I just "endured", then at least the next life wouldn't be so bad. For a while, I dreamed of dying, because at least death would mean "going home" to a place where I felt safe and loved and happy.

One of the most important moments in my life was when I realized that if I was miserable trying to be in the church today, what would make me think I would be happy living this plan for all eternity? Everything I'd been taught about the Celestial Kingdom just made me believe it would be MORE of the temple. MORE church. MORE of the worst kinds of members. (I actually said, "If that's who is going to be in heaven, send me to HELL!") More of the things that made this life feel barely bearable.

The day I realized that death wouldn't bring me to the happiness I wanted, I started taking responsibility for finding happiness today. I stopped dreaming of death, because I wanted to find a way to live.

One of my therapy assignments was to list my passions and values. (They asked for the top three... but since it's my blog, I don't have to follow their rules.)
Exploring. Learning new things. Discovering new places.
Love. Loving myself. Loving others. Loving the world around me. Loving what I do. Finding things, people, places that I love.
Nature/Spirituality. Being in the places that I feel most at peace (mountains). Finding the connection that I have to the world I live in. Following the deepest part of myself.
Leadership and Integrity. Being ME. Showing others that it is okay to be themselves through my willingness to be me. Facing my fears, so others will know they can too. Being open and honest, so others won't feel as alone, and so I won't feel so alone.
Change. Making the world a better place. Using my voice and my talents to improve the world. NOT for some grand reward in the next life, but just because I CAN.


So, what's the point?

Talk to friends. Watch TV. Play the violin. Ride a horse. Eat salmon tacos. Count the blades of grass. Watch the clouds in the sky. Go fishing. Drive. Write a book. Read a book. Play a game. Kiss someone you love. Watch a child grow. Decorate your house. Buy new furniture. Watch an ant carry a crumb. Work. Make a living. Find a way to contribute to the world around you. Smile. Cry. Laugh. Hate. Love. Think. Play the piano. Sing. Dance. Go scuba diving. Feel the rain on your cheeks. Splash in the puddles. Go rock climbing. Sit on the porch. Take a nap in the hammock. Watch a lightening storm. Go for a walk. Play with a goat. Train a dog. Pet a cat. Grow out your hair. Cut it short. Go to school. Family. Talk to someone older than you. Talk to someone younger than you. Watch a child learn. Listen to music. Paint a picture. Create a sculpture. Go on a cruise. Write letters. Invent something that has never been invented. Sleep. Memorize a poem. Share ideas. Catch a snake. Try new foods. Watch the snow fall. Study each flake. Smell the clean clothes when you take them out of the dryer. Smell the sweat when you work hard. Feed the horses. Fix the fences. Get hurt. Heal. Sit by the fireplace. Take pictures. Listen to the birds. Watch ice form and melt. Play chess. Write a program. Plant a garden. Learn to play the guitar. Think about learning to play the guitar, but never take the dang thing out of it's case. Disagree. Hug. Feel. Just BE.

See what you can see. Learn what you can learn. Live as much as you can live.
And one day, die... and then find out whatever it is that comes next.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Underwater Breathing

I started my scuba diving class.
I loved it. Water is a whole new world of exploration... I haven't even spent much time playing in a pool, and the thought of exploring lakes, rivers, and the oceans UNDER water sounds amazing.

Just think of all of the cool things I can see!

We went through a few of the things for certification:

I tried to smile for the picture.
That was less effective:
I lost the snorkel.
I had to swim. I had to use a snorkel, fill it with water, then blow it out, so I could keep breathing.

The fins caused me issue, because I got stepped on by a horse this week, so I finally took them off. It's hard to swim with a big tank on your back.

I had to breath underwater with and without the mask on. (First breath was SO weird!)

We learned how to clear the regulator. (It fills with water when you take it out of your mouth underwater. If you just put it back in and start breathing, you'll breath water.) We had to do that several times, and show we knew the different methods to clear it.

Then we had to flood our masks and clear our masks underwater. Having water in the mask made it so I couldn't see, and that caused me anxiety. I had a hard time thinking when I couldn't open my eyes... The instructor worked with me for about five minutes before I could (somewhat calmly) fill the mask with water, and then clear it.

Before class, I was a little bit worried that PTSD/anxiety/panic would make diving miserable (for me, and anyone with me). I'm not worried anymore. Before I go on a real dive, I'm going to have to get more comfortable with water in the mask, but I am confident with just a little more time and practice, I'll be past the anxiety.

I'm going to have to invest in a wetsuit or something. (I hate spending money, but I have learned that spending money on the right gear makes experiences so much more enjoyable. Something about freezing makes it hard to enjoy anything.) The pool was 80 degrees, and by the end of class I was shivering so bad I couldn't turn the knobs on the oxygen tank.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Moving forward

Most of my current friends are from "support groups".
Some people I met while I was in treatment for an eating disorder.
Some I met at a CALM (Community After Leaving Mormonism) support group.

The nice thing about meeting friends there, is that you can get right down to talking about the stuff that is bothering you. No one balks if you talk about trauma or abuse in an eating disorder support group. Pretty much everyone there has their own intense story, and they are trying to figure out how to survive hell just like I was. It was very helpful to have people who understood and who I could talk to.

Leaving the church was incredibly painful, difficult, crazy, and very lonely. I am so glad I found the support group. Again - no one balked when I expressed anger, sadness, and frustration at the things I learned in church (or that I learned about the church). Nobody tried to persuade me to feel differently - because we were all going through pretty much the same thing.

The thing I have started to realize recently is that I don't NEED either of these support groups anymore. (Which is AWESOME!) But now I want to find friends that share more common interests, instead of common pains. (Just to clarify - the friends I've made in those places are still very important to me... It's just that I want to expand my life to include new people.)

This summer, I joined an organization that helps train Mustangs.
Last month, I joined a club called Trout Unlimited. They get together once a month and talk about fishing. Then they go out fishing and camping together. Freaking awesome!
Tonight, I start a scuba diving class.

I will still be very involved in educating others about abuse vs. healthy relationships. (It is very important to me to be here in case there is anyone else who needs support.)
I will never be able to completely get away from the church, because everyone in my family is still a part. So, I will probably always write about and be involved with issues. (I also still have a desire to be there for anyone who was like me. I want them to know there are more options than what the church teaches.)

I'm also ready to move forward into LIFE. I don't know how that will go as far as blogging... There's not much to say after a great ride, or a good fishing trip, or even a scuba diving class. How many times do I say, "Today's ride was AWESOME!" before everyone gets tired of reading??

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Trying to convince a horse to drag a tree... not as easy as it sounds.

In my last post, I talked about our desire to train the horses to drag a tree behind it.
We want to ride the horses in, find a tree, cut it down ourselves, and have a horse drag it out behind him. I've never done anything like that with Sunny. BJ once tied a sled behind Bo the horse, and it didn't go very well. Bo was fine with the rope being tied to the saddle. He was NOT fine with that piece of plastic following him.

We decided we'd start with Sunny... Generally, he spooks less than Bo. (Unless there's an elk. Sunny doesn't like elk.) I tied a plank of wood to a rope, then tied that to his saddle. We walked all over the pasture. No problem. (Bo freaked out. He didn't like that piece of wood following Sunny around. We spent most of the time trying to get Bo to get close to the wood and the rope.)

I am not going near that thing, and you can't make me!
Bo eventually got to a point where he would walk next to Sunny while Sunny was dragging the wood. I decided it was time to move to something bigger, so I tied a log on. He did great with that. (He was a little uneasy, until I had him stop and look at it. I don't think he understands English, but I have found if I just explain things to him, he calms down. So I explained it to him.)

This is what Sunny and I were doing while Bo and BJ were moving closer and closer to the rope tied to Sunny's saddle.
This is the part of the story that shows how silly I am... What made me think this was a good "next step"?

There was a tree in the yard that had been knocked over by the wind. It wasn't TOO heavy - I could have dragged it myself, but I decided I could use Sunny's new skill to move the tree out.

I tied the rope to the tree. Made sure it was no longer attached to the ground at all...
And then I started leading Sunny. He was great, until the tree got caught on the gate. He kept pulling at it, but when it wouldn't budge, he started dancing... and rearing up... and I was standing at his head.

BJ videoed the whole thing... You can't see Sunny step on/kick my ankle, but you can see when I start hopping (and swearing, but softly enough that only I could hear it.) I can't get the video to upload... you'll just have to trust me...

We got the tree loose, and then Sunny pulled it the rest of the way, no problem.
Tonight, I'm hanging out on the couch: foot up with ice on it. It doesn't hurt too bad, but it is swollen and bruised looking.  A friend of mine shared this on Facebook (so fitting):

BEWARE: I ride horses, which means I own pitchforks, have the strength to haul hay, and have to guts to (work with) half ton animal after being kicked... you will not be a problem!

I'm feeling tough tonight. (Although I also just went to Cowboy Poetry, where one of the poets shared a poem about "Healthy Living". I wish I had a copy of the whole thing... basically it poked fun at the irony that Cowboys live outside in the fresh air, and think they are living healthy, because they don't live in the city. BUT they've all lost fingers, broken bones, and various other injuries. It's just part of being a "horse person". I've never broken a bone or lost a finger. I broke my nose once and now I've bruised my ankle... I'm not really tough at all.)


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My magnificently Boring Life

I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago... She asked me how I was doing... what was new... all the usual questions.

She and I have both been through HELL. Abuse. (and a lot of it). PTSD. Depression. Craziness. And we both felt like we would never be 'normal'.

When she asked me all the usual questions, I laughed/cried and said, "I'm so normal and boring. It's awesome!"

And then WE laughed/cried as I told her about my very boring (and wonderful) life:

I woke up and ate breakfast with BJ. We talked about horses. We want to train them to drag a tree behind them, so we can cut down our own Christmas tree this year and have the horses drag it out. I don't know how to train my horse to drag a tree behind him. We tried to come up with a plan that would be helpful AND not result in injury of us or the horses.

I showered and got ready for the day. He went to work.
I work from home, so it's pretty easy going. I have two co-workers that come in for a couple hours every week. They came and we worked and chatted.

I fed the horses, and ate my lunch in the pasture with them.
I replied to a few personal emails and played on Facebook, then I went back to work. I shipped 108 pounds of ties that day. That's a lot of orders!

Dann called and we talked. (Like I said before, we're friends.)

BJ came home and we made dinner together. We talked about our day. His work. My work. The conversations he had with Jim at work. (Jim likes to talk about the same things that BJ likes to talk about. They get each other thinking.)

BJ made banana bread, and then we watched TV (Gold Rush. I hope Parker makes it big!) My friend called. BJ tied flies (for fly fishing) while I talked to her, and then we read. Together, but not together... Sitting in the same room reading our own books. I love reading my own book, but still sitting together and sharing what we're reading. Sometimes I only read one paragraph before we spend the next few hours talking about stuff.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Eating Disorder questions

A friend of mine recently taught a class on eating disorders. He asked me a bunch of questions, so he could share some of my story. I figured I'd share my answers here...

How did I view my body?
I hated it. Everything about it. The way it looked. The way it felt pain, hunger, thirst, or tired. I hated myself... hating my body was just an extension of that.

What were the reasons for restricting?

I didn't really "restrict" like most people. As a very little girl, I was a super picky eater. If told I had to eat the hot dog, or go hungry, I chose to go hungry.
When I was 10ish, I heard my parents stressing about money. In my mind, if I went without food, that would help them.

At 14, my dad punched my brother. He spent two weeks in the hospital with a ruptured spleen. I blamed myself, because I didn't do anything to protect Jeff. I got really depressed and lost my appetite. I found that not eating numbed my anger and my sadness. It made life more bearable.
At 17, when I went into treatment, my therapist would ask me why I didn't want to eat, and all I could come up with then was that I was crazy. I really didn't know.

I got a lot better from 18-29. I felt like I owed it to everyone else to be recovered. So I ate like I was supposed to. At 29, I just decided I was done... done living, done trying, done pleasing everyone else. Which took me right back to starving myself.

I went back to therapy, and this time talked about sexual abuse that I wasn't willing to talk about the first time. Talking about the abuse caused horrible flashbacks, nightmares, and intense painful "body memories". I felt like the only way to find relief from the flashbacks and body memories was to walk. I walked and walked and walked.

I went back into treatment mostly because I knew I could make myself eat, but I didn't know if I could make myself eat AND deal with all of the abuse and trauma that I needed to deal with.

How did religion play into your thought processes?
Religion was HUGE.
First, not eating was a very acceptable way to deal with problems. Alcohol and drugs were not an option, but not eating was not only NOT looked down upon, but thought to be a good thing. People (in general and in the church) still see my ability to fast for a long time and to exercise as a show of self-discipline. (I have heard several people say they wish they could be anorexic for a while, just so they could lose weight.)

There are many lessons about the spirit having power over the body. I can push my body to extremes that most people won't ever even try. (That's a good thing, by the way.) Being able to push my body meant I was more spiritual.

I was rewarded for not being selfish... for being aware of what everyone else needed and letting them have it. This played out in food. I (still) won't take the last piece of cake, because that feels selfish.

Fasting is a sacrifice that we make to God, so that he will answer our prayers. I fully believed that my not eating could help the people I love...

The LDS religion preaches perfection as the goal. It created very black and white thinking. The goal might be to BE perfect, but if you can't be perfect, at least LOOK perfect. Hide all imperfections, weaknesses, flaws, and make them go away. (Not eating was a way to make all the human flaws seem less... I had super human strength... It also made all human emotions go away. I didn't' feel angry, jealous, sad, or wanting. I didn't have strong opinions about anything (It's hard to feel passionate about anything when you're starving.)

Forgiveness in church means forgetting. Killing brain cells by starving MAKES you forget.
What was effective and what was not. Was there anything that wasn't effective the first time through but was the second? What had changed in you between the first and second time?
The first time I went, I was seventeen.
I was in the ER, and the Dr. gave me the choice of going into the hospital or going to Center for Change. I chose Center for Change (CFC). I thought I would be there for two weeks... just long enough to get some food in me.
I ended up staying almost three months. It was very helpful, but...
I wasn't ready to talk about a lot of things, so I shut down. I started doing a lot of eating disorder behaviors and hiding it even before I left.

There's also a sort of competition with eating disorders. It's like you have to be really REALLY sick to deserve any kind of help. Every time a new admit would come in, everyone would obsess about her body, and relapse in a way. They also made fun of the people that were working. (If someone took an extra helping of food, the other girls were AWFUL with their comments.) The staff was awesome, but the other patients made it really hard to do the work.

Being in the environment with the other patients is a big reason I didn't want to go back eleven years later.
My experience was SO different the second time.

CFC made a lot more rules to protect against people doing exactly what I had done. When I went the first time, they were only six months old. They learned a lot in that time.
I also REALLY wanted to be better. I was willing to do anything to feel good, so I was a SUPER stickler for all the rules. (I had a therapist tell me to stop following all the rules... Learn to trust myself and stop trying to be perfect. BEST advice ever.)

The other patients were amazing. I had told Paul (my therapist) that if the other patients were anything like they were my first time, I wouldn't stay. I was watching for the competition and the sabotaging each other.
I had been there about two weeks when a new girl came in. She was very sick - heart problems and seizures from detoxing off the diet pills she had been taking. Several of the girls sat in a circle, prayed for her, and then pinky promised to be done with the eating disorder. There have been many days when I felt too tired to keep going, and I remember that pinky promise. It's hard to describe how amazing that experience was if you have never seen what some treatment centers can be like.

Since I already knew how to make myself eat, my big focus was on dealing with the abuse. I worked HARD. I talked about things that I didn't want to talk about. I shared. I was open and honest. I gave therapy my ALL.

I knew what it was like to "just eat" and I wanted more than that. I was not (am still not) willing to live the way I had been: trying to please others, letting other people use and abuse me, and feeling helpless in my own life.

I stayed inpatient for three months, and then did day patient (going from 8 am - 8 pm) for another few months. The transition time of day patient was really helpful. I went back to work a few days a week, but still had a place to go to process everything.

I was really lucky. The church paid for my entire inpatient stay, and then family and friends helped pay for day patient. CFC also gave me a price break and two free weeks. Most people don't get to stay as long as I did or get the kind of transition time that I did. It's really REALLY sad to me that most people just have to figure out how to survive on their own, because there isn't insurance or other funding to help.

As far as food and weight gain, the second time, the focus was on intuitive eating. Learning to trust your body. Eat what you want, and know you'll be okay. That was really helpful too... Especially since I had been so focused on making everyone else happy and "proving" I was recovered for so long. With intuitive eating, you eat what YOU want... no more, no less.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Friendship after Divorce

I started this entry a long time ago, but never finished it. I've written and rewritten it and added things and taken away things... just trying to say what I really want to say, but I'm not even sure what I want to say... so... how do I say what I want to if I don't know what it is...

I don't know if it's complete or good.., but I've decided to share it today.

Once upon a time, I spent an awesome weekend camping, fishing, and riding in the mountains. BJ and I had this trip planned for a LONG time. We wanted to pack our gear, ride in to Kidney Lake, spend a few days fishing, and ride out.

(For those who don't know: Once upon a time, Dann and I were married. Now we're not. We are friends. Being friends was important to me, and it was important to him.)


I didn't want to tell Dann about the trip. I was afraid it would make him sad or jealous. I didn't want him to feel angry or freaked out. (I am very aware of ex-spouses that act crazy when they hear things they don't like.) We were all at my parents' house for dinner. I wanted to tell my dad all about the trip - especially since it was his idea. (He went to Kidney Lake and told BJ and I we needed to go.)

So, I talked about it. I ignored the voice in my head telling me that I wasn't allowed to talk about the things that make me happy... But the voice that said I was hurting Dann wouldn't shut up. So... I finally just said, "Does it bother you that I went on this trip? Or that I talk about it?"

"No! Why would it bother me? What kind of friend would I be if I didn't want to hear about the things that make you happy? What kind of a friend would I be if I got jealous when you were doing something you love? I want you to be happy. I want you to do things you love. And I want to hear about it all! Does it make you jealous when I talk about my dates and/or other girls?"

That was a good question. The answer is NO. I feel really happy for him when he's happy. I feel really happy for him when he's doing things he loves. What kind of a friend would tell him that he can't talk about his dates? That's a huge part of his life.

I want us to be friends. Real friends. So, I tell him about the stuff that I care about. I don't protect him from ME, and I don't hide me, and I don't expect him to pretend or hide either. We're FRIENDS.

All of this has gotten me thinking: We are definitely not common, so how are we doing it?
 
I had people tell me it wasn't possible.
"Once you break up with a person, it should just be over." And I agree, if that's what  any ONE of the people want, that is exactly how it should be... but what if both people want a friendship?
 

A relationship only works if both people have a desire to be in the relationship. It would have been completely acceptable if either one of us had said, "I don't want to continue a relationship with you." THAT is different from the way a lot of people think. For instance, Person A wants to be friends, so they try to force Person B to be their friend. That isn't a friendship. I don't know what that is... other than messed up.) If, in the future, one of us needed to change the relationship again, we would. A relationship only works when it works for both people.

I also think we had to let go of our past relationship. It would be impossible to be "present-friends", if either one of us was still stuck in " past-marriage". We have a history, but we let that be history. There is no talk of what might have been, or blame for the marriage ending, or even questions as to why it didn't work out. There is no trying to get back together - there is only our present friendship.


I had to make a lot of changes in myself. It was a big adjustment for people around me... including for Dann. He was used to me being different... more self-sacrificing... he was a huge support in my journey. Instead of trying to get me to go back to being self-sacrificing, he helped me grow the way I needed to grow...

While we were married, Dann did things that really hurt me. He apologized for those things, and he also understood that his apology didn't make everything all better. There was a lot of pain and anger that I had to go through, and he didn't expect me to rush it on his account. He didn't expect me to do anything for him... He didn't even expect me to be his friend unless I wanted to. Really... He had no expectations of me or of our relationship. By not trying to force anything, by letting go of what he thought it should be, it's unfolded naturally into the relationship we have now.


When I talk to him about anything, he doesn't use invalidating statements and comments. (And if he did, I could tell him. We could talk about it without him freaking out.)

He told me to trust myself.
"I trust you. Now, YOU trust you. If you don't want to talk to me, don't want to see me, or don't want anything to do with me: It doesn't matter. Trust yourself. If you fake it because you think that's what you're supposed to do, or because you think that is what I want, you will NEVER recover... But if you learn to trust you in EVERYTHING, healing will happen." (taken from an online chat)
He told me not to answer the phone when he (or anyone) called unless I WANTED to talk to him (or them).  For nine years, I thought it was my responsibility to take care of his needs: to put him ahead of myself. It was hard to change that belief. It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I am okay having needs, wants, and desires...  He understood that, and supported me. I'd like to say this isn't still hard for me. It is. It's been years, and I still have to fight against the feeling that I have to take care of him.

Knowing the way I work, how awful would our relationship be if he wanted me to fix things for him? How awful would it be for me, if he wanted me to continue taking care of him? If he thought that was what I was supposed to do? Or if he blamed me for not doing more to "save" our marriage? I'd have to fight against the false beliefs in my head AND in his head. I don't think I was (or am) strong enough that I could do that. That relationship would be deadly toxic for me.

He respects me when I tell him no.
I'm still working on telling people (and specifically him) "no". I have had to learn to stand up for myself. When I tell him "no" for any reason, he actually thanks me for taking care of myself, instead of pushing to get his way. That, more than anything, makes it possible for me to be around him. To talk to him. To count him as one of my friends. I have been way too much of a people-pleaser to have people in my life who expect me to please them... in any way...

He doesn't act like he knows what I should be doing, or what my path looks like.
Again, he trusts ME to find my own way, and he is a support as I walk my path. He doesn't give me advice or tell me how to live my life. 

He celebrates when I am happy. 
When I moved, and I was SO excited, he was excited for me. He helped me move - into the house I live in with BJ. Dann is grateful that I found BJ, because I am grateful. He wants to hear about our camping trips, our horseback rides, our fishing trips. He also gets angry when he feels BJ or I aren't being treated right.
"When you love someone, you are happy when they are happy. If you feel sad or hurt when another person is happy, that isn't love, that's selfishness." (taken from a text.)
Can you imagine how healing it is to have him say that to me? Can you imagine how wonderful it is to have a friend that really does care about MY happiness?


I feel lucky. I know how beautifully odd it is. It is rather perfect that we've both come to this place. It's rather perfect that we both wanted a friendship, and we defined friendship in the same way. Our separation and our journey was not short and was not easy, but considering what so many people go through, we're very lucky.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Liebster

Hey look: JeannieLeigh nominated me for a blog award. Shocked me a little.

I get really nervous when people like Jeannie read my blog. I figure they'll hate it... it will make them angry at me... Probably because of how open I am here, and I am still very afraid that if people know ME, they'll hate me. Which is somewhat amusing considering how Jeannie and I found each others' blogs.

She is one of my brother's friends.
Justin was (is?) going through a lot. Over the past year, I have pushed him to love and accept himself. He kept telling me he was too horrible, and if I really knew him, I would hate him as much as he hated himself...

A month (or so) ago Justin and I (and my parents) had an intense conversation. (More intense for him than for anyone else.) He shared some of his "secrets". He didn't tell me anything that changed the way I felt about him... I still love him. I still think he is a kind and wonderful man. I still believe I was right in pushing him to love and accept himself.

The day after our conversation, Jeannie sent him an email asking him to guest post on her blog. Guess what she asked him to write about?? How do you love and accept yourself?

I giggled when he called me and told me that.
It took him a few days to write the post... and then I read why she asked him to write it.
Awesomeness in action. That is all I can say.

I think sometimes we need other people to help us remember that we are okay. Jeannie was an angel for my brother, and I guess today she was an angel for me. It's nice to be reminded that people appreciate what I have to say.

So... here's the rules for this award.

  • Each person must post 11 things about themselves. 
  • Answer the questions the nominator asked, and create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
  • Go to their page and tell them.
  • No tag-backs. 
Eleven things about me:
  • I am the oldest of five kids (Jen (me), Jeff, Zack, Mellen (her real name is MariEllen, but I pretty much never call her that), and Justin) I really love being a big sister. Always have, always will.
  • I play the violin, piano, and the organ. I am teaching myself to play the guitar... (I'd learn a lot faster if I ever took it out of the case.)
  • I graduated from Southern Utah University with a degree in Sociology. I still like reading Sociology textbooks. (I'm kind of a geek like that.)
  • I love horses. I love all animals. I just especially love horses.
  • I love being outside. Trees, mountains, animals, bugs, sun, rain, snow (if I have the right gear), beach, sand, dirt, ALL OF IT. I feel at home when I am outside.
  • I love to read. When I was a kid I'd stay up all night reading... I remember one summer my mom looked at me in exasperation because I had read everything in the house and said, "Why don't you just go watch some TV?!"
  • I think people are fascinating. All people. There's just so many stories out there, and I love them all.
  • I love salmon tacos from Rubio's. I live about a half-hour away from the nearest one, and there are days I drive down the canyon just to eat them. 
(This is harder than I thought... what the hell do I tell all ya'll?)
  •  I just got a new iPhone. It took me a long time, because I didn't want to spend money on the phone and I hated the idea of renewing my contract and signing up for a data plan. Now I can't live without the silly thing.
  • One of the things I do for work is design ties (neckties). I get really REALLY excited whenever anyone buys one of my designs. I wonder if I'll ever get used to that feeling.
  • I once planned on starting a group home for troubled youth. Some days I still think about doing that again, but then I remember my pager going off at 2 AM, and I don't want to do that anymore.
(Done!)
     
    Now for Jeannie's questions:
    1. If you could be an animal you would be? 
    2. Probably a bird... maybe a horse... I don't know. I think it would be fascinating to be anything (or anyone) other than me... How would the world look? Do birds know they are birds? Why don't birds ever land on my shoulder, but they will sit on the horse's back? How does it all work?
    3. Why do you blog?
    4. Two reasons. It gives me a place to sort out my thoughts and my feelings. I get to know myself better by writing. I remember what it was like to feel SO alone... like no one else had ever been through and survived what I was going through. I hope maybe someone will find my words and know they aren't alone.
    5. Favorite piece of furniture (and it can't be your bed!)?
    6. Piano. If that doesn't count as furniture, then my bookshelf.
    7. What is your signature dance move?
    8. I like how it feels to just move with the music... so my signature move is whatever I am feeling in that moment.
    9. Character in a movie/book you related to most?
    10. I can't think of anyone right now... Books, I mostly read memoirs. Emily Pearson's memoir (Dancing with Crazy) was really good. There were parts where I felt like she could have been writing my story...
    11. Number one place you never want to go?
    12. There isn't anywhere I never want to go... I want to explore everything and everywhere. I know that won't happen, but I would love it if it would.
    13. Worst fashion mistake of all time?
    14. eighties hair.
    15. Favorite word?
    16. Fuck.
    17. Guilty pleasure?
    18. I don't believe in guilty pleasures. Life is here to be enjoyed... and I have felt way too guilty about way too many things...
    19. Thoughts on breakfast?
    20. eat it!
    21. If you were a tree, what tree would you be?
    22. something big and old and knotted. 

    So... Justin cheated and ALSO put me on his list, so here are Justin's questions:
    1. Favorite mystical/mythical animal?
      Unicorn... I guess. Never really thought about it.
    2. Favorite place?
      The mountains. Or my house. I like being home.
    3. Most random childhood memory
      Playing in the bushes and pretending they were houses.
    4. What is something about yourself that you're proud of?
      I work HARD. I have had to completely reconstruct myself and my life, and I did it. (Am still doing it.)
    5. What is something awesome about yourself that I may not know?
      I can't think of anything... between reading the blog and being my brother, there isn't much you don't know.
    6. Favorite number.
      I don't have one. I just adopt whoever I'm with - their favorite number.
    7. What are your feelings on the matter of cheese?
      Generally, I don't like it... but I love nachos... and pepperjack cheese has almost changed my opinion on cheese
    8. Favorite book or series, if not possible favorite genre.
      Genre - Memoirs... I will read almost anyone's memoir, because I love to hear people's stories.
    9. A quote you love?

      Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
    10. Someone you look up to in history
      Martin Luther King Jr. 
    11. Someone you admire in present day?
      There are a lot of people. I am surrounded by amazing people. 

    And now my list of blogs.


    Poetry sans onions (Julia)
    The Rains Came Down
    I am serious... and don't call me Shirley
    the peacewriter
    Beyond the Closet Door
    Breaking the Silence
    We were going to be Queens (Kiley)
    Life As a Reader (Morrigan)
    The things I have discovered
    Within Four Walls (Wendy)

    Phew!! I'm done!








    I'm prejudiced against Mormons.

    JeannieLeigh nominated me for a blog award. 
    I promise I'll do all that I am supposed to do because she nominated me. (Answer the questions about me, nominate others, etc.)

    But first, there's other stuff that I want to write about:



    It surprises me when active members of the church get to know me, and they are okay with me. It surprises me when they tell me they appreciate what I write. It surprises me that people have been so kind and respectful to me.

    I have written a ton about how awesome my family has been... because they respect me and love me.

    It really IS awesome that my family loves ME... and at the same time... when did it become awesome to have a family that was loving and respectful and nonjudgmental?

    The thing I recently realized about myself?
    I'm prejudiced against Mormons. You know how I know that?
    I say things like, "They are still members, but they are really good to me."
    "They love the church, and yet somehow they still love me."

    How could I have not seen the way I think before?
    I get REALLY cranky when people say racist statements, like:
    "He's black, but he's a really good man."
    (As if to say a good man and a black man aren't usually the same man. BULLSHIT!)




    So, when did it become okay to hold members of the LDS church to a lower standard than I would hold the rest of the world?

    Maybe my prejudice comes from the way I was as a member...
    I cut off friends who went inactive or who left the church. I never told them why - I just stopped talking to them.
    I was self-righteous...
    I was self-sacrificing AND I had an expectation that good people women would be too. (Men didn't have to be.)

    I pushed people to be obedient.
    I told them what to do, how to think, what to feel.
    If they got any answer that was different from the church, I dismissed them and their answer.


    Just four years ago, I sat with my sister and told her she was taking the wrong path. I am SO GLAD she didn't take that shit from me. She told me I was caught up in my life and my problems, and I wasn't seeing HER. She was right. I apologized to her immediately, and have made every effort to see HER. I hope I am a better sister now.

    I wanted to be GOOD. I wanted to be a good, righteous, person who was worthy of being loved... and that desire drove me to be a bitch. (Other days it drove me to be a doormat. I was a very confused soul.) Leaving the church helped me to let go of all of that.

    I feel amazed, because I don't know if I could have done what my family or people like Jeannie have done.

    My prejudice also comes from observing others:
    It is amazing to me that my family isn't judgmental, because I see how other families are.
    It is amazing to me that my family doesn't try to get me to go back to church, because so few families are respectful enough to do that.
    It is amazing to me that my family comes to visit me when I have heard of others that won't visit family as long as they are"living in sin". (i.e. I live in the house with a man I am not married to.)
    I think it's awesome that my parents, siblings, aunts, grandparents, and a cousin all SAY and MEAN, "I love you and I want you to be happy," and they trust ME to find my own happiness. They have no prescribed "plan of happiness" that I have to do, or they won't believe I am happy. They listen to ME.
    They don't tell me I am following Satan, I need to repent, or any other of the crazy things I have heard people tell their "apostate" loved ones.

    I am SO grateful. My family treats me the way I wish ALL families would treat each other.
    I also wish I didn't think it was so amazing and awesome that they are the way they are.

    It's just... I'm not sure how to change my fear of Mormons.
    That's what my prejudice is:
    Fear that people will first: judge me, and then: use their judgment to hurt me.

    My prejudice keeps me alert and wary, and it's easier to not take it personally if they do something that hurts. As much as I hate to say this, maybe I'm not ready to let go of that.

    Right now, I feel amazed by very simple acts of kindness, and can shrug off huge acts of abuse. Maybe that's not a bad place to be in... at least for a little while...


    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Why was I sobbing? (A reaction to the missionary age change.)

    Saturday's announcement that girls can now go on missions at age 19 shouldn't have affected me. I'm WAY older than 19. I've left the church. There really isn't anyone in my life that that announcement really effects. (A few cousins... but that's it...)

    So, why did I find myself sobbing uncontrollably when I went to bed Saturday night?
    I couldn't figure it out until I read Joanna Brooks's blog.
    "How do you let go of anger and hurt from growing up in a culture and institution that taught things about the role of women and about the timing and urgency of marriage that shaped pivotal decisions in your life? I’m grateful things will be better (at least in this respect) from now on, but I can’t help but grieve for what might have been."

    That's it. I got married at 19 years old. I didn't get married because I had dreamed of being a wife and a mom my whole life... I hadn't. (At 14, I decided I didn't want to get married and I had no desire to have children.) I didn't get married because I couldn't picture my life without Larry. I didn't get married because I was madly in love...

    I got married because I wanted to be "good". I got married because I wanted to move forward and progress in my life, and marriage was how a woman did that. I got married because I wanted to show my family that all of their prayers and efforts to keep me alive were worth it. I got married because I wanted to be an adult, and that is how a woman becomes an adult... She turns her life over to a man.

    Larry liked me. Larry wanted me. I didn't think many men would... so I counted my blessings that someone DID want me, and I put the ring on my finger. (A ring I didn't want, by the way. I didn't like big stones, and I wanted a simple band... but HIS wife had to have a big diamond.)

    He treated me like shit. He was abusive and controlling and my life with him was hell. It took me ten years to even BEGIN dealing with all of the things he did. I feel very lucky to have survived that marriage... and it's only been fairly recently that I have stopped having nightmares and flashbacks and... that all could have been avoided if I had had some other option.

    I have already said that I wasn't real comfortable with trying to convert other people... but if a mission would have been an option, I am pretty sure I would have taken it. I could have avoided two years of being raped and ridiculed. I could have avoided the years and years of therapy. I could have avoided all of the beliefs I formed about myself, my body, relationships... My life could have been so different.

    If I had gone on a mission, and not gone through the hell I went through with Larry, maybe I'd still be in the church... And while I am very happy now that I have left... it would have been a lot of easier if I had just been happy where I was born.

    (I remember talking to a "super-believing" Mormon woman. My question was, "If I could prove to you that the church isn't what it claimed to be, would you want to hear my proof?"

    She said, "No. I'm happy with my life, and I don't want to know."

    I felt jealous... I WISH I could have said that, but I didn't have the option... I had to search out and question and eventually leave in order to save my life. I wish I could have been happy..)

    So... while the decision has no effect on me or my life... I feel abandoned once again...Or at least I felt abandoned when I heard about the change in policy. I cried, and I cussed a bit.

    Today, I am back to feeling grateful for my life. I definitely wouldn't choose the hell I went through, but the chances are good I would not be who I am today without all of those experiences.. I would not have the life I have today, and I really like my life.

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    Or maybe... I don't feel as strongly (about missionary work) as I thought.

    After I wrote the last post (I don't believe in missionary work), I went to my parents' house for dinner. I just got a new iPhone, and was browsing facebook while I was waiting for everyone to get there.

    My friend, John, posed this question. I paid extra attention to it because of the post I had just written.
    "Hypothetical: There's a 19 year-old LDS male who is super smart and sensitive, who does not believe that the LDS church is the one true church, but who loves the church, and would theoretically like to serve a mission -- but only if he could do it in a way where he didn't feel like he had to lie to people (testifying of things he didn't believe/know) -- perhaps inviting people to join the church if it worked for them? I don't know exactly.

    My question to you all --
    1) Have any of you been able to successfully serve a mission in this way?
    2) If not, do you know anyone who has? Or do you have any advice on how to make this work? I'm looking for advice tips on if this is possible."
    So, I asked my family. Justin told me about his friend. He (friend) is from a part-member family. His mother is Catholic, his father is Mormon. His goal for his mission (he's been out for six weeks) is to find the people that the church is right for. No one else.


    In that way, I think we all are missionaries... I write a blog about the harm the church has done to me, about working to heal my life, and about abusive relationships, and part of my "mission" is to just be here in case someone else feels like I do/have felt. I'm not trying to "de-convert" anyone, but I want to be a help to someone if they are already on that road and need support.


    There are people that need to hear what I have to say. (I needed to hear what I had to say.) 
    There are people that need to hear what you have to say too... And now all I can think about is the plaque-thingy my mom gave me for Christmas last year.

    Your story matters. (tell it)


    It's a fine line... How do you say, "This is what I have found helpful," without saying, "You should do this too." MANY missionaries put HIGH pressure to get new converts. For them, it seems like they need to convert other people in order to validate themselves. That seems like it would be harmful for everyone. The missionary and everyone he talks to.... and that is what I find myself fighting against. 

    So, it turns out I don't feel as strongly as I thought I did... 
    And... my "mission" is still the same, LOVE YOURSELF. You are perfect and beautiful and wonderful just the way you are. You don't need to change a thing, and neither do I.

    Saturday, October 6, 2012

    I don't believe in missionary work... of any kind

    I didn't believe in trying to convert people TO the church when I was a member, and I don't believe in trying to de-convert people now that I've left.

    A few years ago, I was working very closely with my bishop. In one of our meetings, Bishop C asked about my friends. One of my best friends is Jewish. At the time, we talked on the phone almost every day... And our conversations were not short, nor were they surface-y. We talked. We listened to each other cry. We shared our struggles and our victories. We REALLY talked. When I told him about her, his response was, "Wonderful! What a great missionary opportunity!!!"

    I felt disgusted. Here was this amazing person who loved ME, and who was SO supportive of me and my journey. How could I possibly THINK about trying to convert (change) her? I love her for who she is, and I didn't (still don't) want her to change. I would never DREAM of taking away her family traditions, culture, and beliefs. Being Jewish is a big part of her, and I love HER. (Of course, if she decided she didn't want that to be a part of her life anymore, then I'd be there to support her. I love her, and I want her to be happy, and I trust her to know her way.)

    When I started questioning, she was one of the only people I felt like I could talk to. Her perspective was SO refreshing. She helped me to see I wasn't bad for questioning. She helped me by just listening. There was never any judgment, or even really any advice. She was always supportive and safe to talk to. I am still so so so grateful I had her to turn to...

    I know many missionaries love the product they sell... and I'm not against telling people about something you love. By ALL means. I love when Amanda tells me about her traditions and holidays. (I like it when she tells me about just about everything - the traditions and holidays are just things that she loves that are different from me.) Last week, my family listened to me talk about the Book of Mormon Musical for thirty minutes. Do you think they cared about it at all? No. They listened because they care about ME. And I hope they know I wasn't trying to sell them on anything. I was talking about it because I like it, but I don't expect everyone to like what I like. The trouble I see with missionary work is that people believe their way is the ONLY way. Missionaries believe that other people are incomplete/broken/need to be changed if they don't believe the same way that they do. (Atheists are just as guilty of this sometimes, and I don't like their missionary work either.)

    To those of you who love the church, how would you feel if I told you that the Truth was outside of the church... You can never find happiness as long as you are a member... If you have prayed, and you still believe the church is true, it's because you are not praying right, or haven't studied enough, or you need to repent. It HURTS. It feels shitty and invalidating, and it's not okay. (Those of us who have left get this kind of stuff all the time... And I've heard missionaries telling potential converts things like this. I imagine it hurts less coming from a naive eighteen-nineteen year old stranger than it does coming from family and friends, but still...)

    In the book The Good Heart, the Dalai Lama he tells Christians NOT to convert to Buddhism. The Dalai Lama said that... WHY? The only reason I can come up with is that it is more important to him that people make peace with themselves and their own roots. Conversion of any kind is painful. The religious stories we were told growing up are a BIG part of us. In my case, I had to leave because I couldn't make peace with the church and much of it's teachings. It hurt. It is hard. Even though it has been two years, and I am definitely MUCH happier than I was, I feel like I am still in the process of finding ME outside of the church. It seems like asking someone to convert TO the church would be just as difficult.

    I HIGHLY value accepting others and loving them as they are. If I had a cause, that would be mine. If I wanted to convert anyone to anything, it would be, LOVE YOURSELF!

    Book of Mormon Musical: Hasa Diga

    Remember how I said I didn't feel like writing any more about Book of Mormon Musical. That was then... Today, I feel like it.

    A warning: I'm about to write about a song that WILL offend.  I like this song, but I don't think you will. It's blasphemous, offensive, profane, vulgar, and the list goes on. Don't listen to it, and if you decide to listen to it, don't get mad at me, because I warned you. (There are phrases and a word that even I won't use... and fuck is one of my very favorite words. I feel guilty even writing what the song title means, so in the words of Elder Price, "They are saying F--- You to Heavenly Father.")


    First, since I just told you all not to listen to it, here is what the song is about:
    The people have a lot of bad things in their life. They then list the struggles in their life: No food. People dying in the street. Female circumcision. AIDS. Warlords. etc. Really awful and horrific things that most people could never imagine...REAL shit.

    Then they turn to the missionaries and ask them to list off the bad things in their life:
    Crowded plane. Late bus. Lost luggage.

    Eventually the missionaries figure out what the people are saying (F you to Heavenly Father). Elder Price tells them they shouldn't be saying that.

    The reply is, "If you don't like what we say, try living here a couple days."


    I really like that line, because that is how I have felt before.
    I'm not saying you have to listen to me and you definitely don't have to agree with me... but don't you dare tell me how I am supposed to get through hell while you're sitting on your nice, fluffy, heavenly clouds.



    There's also something about making fun of something that has had so much power over me, that reduces it's power. If I can laugh at it, it doesn't hurt or control me nearly as much...

    I can always tell when BJ has had a bad day, because this is the song blasting through out the house. He plays it once or twice... and then he seems more relaxed... So... because I feel like shit this morning, I decided to try it.

    (Have I told you all how crazy General Conference weekend makes me. It makes me NUTS. I feel guilty and angry and twisted in knots... I want to scream and cry and throw things...)

    It works. Relieves some of the tension. Gives me a place to put all of the anger I feel. Makes me laugh. Which reminds me of a story...

    A few years ago, I was in a rough place. Flashbacks, seizures, and trying to make sense of a world that didn't make sense at all. One day, I was curled up in a ball on the floor, in too much pain to even cry, and I was apologizing for being such a pain (or something)... BJ held me and just said, "Stop apologizing... You haven' done ANYTHING to apologize for... and especially... with all the fucking shit you have been through..."

    Back then, I didn't use the fuck word. I thought it was bad! BAD! BAD! But something clicked in my brain, and I interrupted him, "It's not 'fucking shit'. Let's be accurate, it's actually 'shitty fucking'."

    I thought it was really funny. But more than funny, it was honest. I owned what happened to me. And I used words that were off limits, but said what I needed to say... and I laughed, which released some of the tension in my body And it really did make it "all seem better".

    Some anger and pain is too intense to feel, and it's too intense to distract from, and there just aren't "nice" words that can accomplish what a well placed FUCKword can. I don't advocate using profanity all the time, but I do believe there are times and there are places where it is entirely appropriate.

    Like in this song. It was very healing for me. It shocked me enough to let me laugh at the anger and the pain... I don't know if that's what the writers had in mind, but that is what it did for me.


    (Warning repeat: I do NOT recommend this song to anyone else. It is blasphemous and offensive and uses language that might make your ears bleed. I'm just telling you that I loved it, but I don't think anyone else will.)

    Since I'm writing about it, I might as well tell you about seeing it live. I enjoyed it. It wasn't helpful - it wasn't harmful. It was just fun for me.

    The reprise, however, was a different story. The reprise wasn't on the CD, so I'd never heard it. The full song is shocking and exaggerated. The reprise was less shocking, and instead of exaggerating emotions, it captured exactly how I have felt... The  betrayal, the loneliness, the heartache, the dashed hopes and the pain of "now what?" all were captured in that thirty second song... And I couldn't laugh at the emotions I felt.
    I was such a fool to have followed this advice…
    There is no trip to Paradise…
    How could I let my hopes get so high…
    Hasa Diga Eebowai…
    HASA DIGA EEBOWAI!
    You gave me a dream… but it was all a lie…
    I think you like to see me cry…
    Hasa diga…
    I sobbed. It wasn't like "tears running down my face, but I still look pretty" No. Ugly tears. Snot. Holding it in so no one else could hear, but it felt like my throat was being ripped out... I wasn't expecting that. AT ALL. I enjoyed talking to the other audience members around me before the show and during intermission... but after the show, I just wanted to get out of there. I sat in the van and cried. Once I finished crying, I felt better... And I'm back to loving the show.



    Before I left the church, I went through a lot of intense emotions and a lot of confusion.
    I felt betrayed; lied to; ANGRY at how hard I tried to believe and how hard I tried to make myself fit; angry that I had been taught if I didn't get the "right" answers to prayers, it is because there is something wrong with ME; angry at all of the teachings that really fucked me up; angry at all of the time I spent feeling anxious and depressed because I believed; angry at the false hopes (if I just did what I was supposed to do, I would be happy.); lonely - I was afraid I was going to love everyone I loved; FEAR and GUILT for not doing what everyone thought I should; afraid of what would happen to me; and on and on and on.

    Since leaving, I have had to completely reconstruct my own stories and beliefs. That isn't easy to do, and it gets even more difficult two weekends a year. I can't get away from it... I guess I CAN. I have. I ran away and went camping every conference weekend for two years. I avoided my family and refused to talk to them. I didn't get on Facebook, or read any blogs... I thought I was doing better. I thought it wouldn't affect me anymore. Apparently, I was wrong...