Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thanks for coming to my house. I'd love for you to come again.

My parents came to my house for dinner tonight.

I was anxious inviting them over. I was a tiny bit anxious while they were here. The anxiety really hit after they left.

BJ asked why I was so anxious... What was I afraid of?

Good question. I think I'll write about it. (So, here I am. Writing about it.)

They've been to my house several times before. I feel like I should be comfortable having them over... But still, every time I invite someone into my home, my world, my safe space, it's scary. I feel afraid that they won't approve. I feel afraid that I'll like having them here, and they will never come back, and that will hurt. I just feel generally afraid of something that doesn't really make sense. Even to me.

They've told me they love me and they want me to be happy, and still I feel like if they don't approve of me, I'm not allowed to be happy. That's a lot of pressure to put on them. That's a lot of pressure to put on me. OF COURSE I'd be anxious if I believed that. I'd try to be practically perfect. In every way. All the while knowing I'm not. Also knowing that to try to be perfect is crazy and impossible, and yet I can't stop myself from trying.

I'm much better than I once was. Mostly all I have left is a remnant of my old fears and perfectionisms. Having people come to my home though, is like a whole new part of my brain that has to be trained. (I'm like a horse. You can work with a horse forever on one side of his body, and when you move to the other side, it will be like totally starting over.You have to work both sides of his body and his brain.)

I'm babbling a bit. I'm still trying to figure out my own emotions... feeling a bit raw. And happy.
I no longer want their approval (mostly). Mostly, I want them to know how happy and real I am, and I want them to share in that with me. Which they did. They do. That makes me grateful and happy.

To my parents: 
I haven't quite figured out how to say the words in person yet... Forgive me for saying this on a public blog. I'm really grateful you came to my house. It was a fun night. Despite the anxiety, I loved planning for your visit. (I even loved cooking dinner! Weird!) I enjoyed talking about camping, hiking and scouting. I enjoyed the stories about Hawaii and lack of oxygen. I enjoyed having you here, sitting on the porch, watching the horses and goats, and eating BBQ and peanut butter bars. I liked sharing my world with you.

Thank you for coming to my house. I'd love for you to come again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My theme song: (Ode to Joy: Flash Mob)

A few days ago, a friend asked me the question, "What's your theme song? What song do you want to play whenever you enter the room?"

My answer: "The theme from Beethoven's 9th symphony. (Ode to Joy) and depending on the moment, it would be played on the solo violin, or the whole orchestra, and maybe sometimes on a kazoo..."

I didn't consider a flash mob style orchestra... but I might have to add this to my list.

How can you not be happy when you listen to this music?
It makes my whole body, soul, spirit, ALL of me SING!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I saw Wicked!!!
It was amazing.
I love the music. I love the humor. I love the story.

I had lots of thoughts while watching:

As l I was watching the cast take bows, I realized the stars of the show are both female. Although there is romance in the story, the romance is not THE story. I like that.

The whole play is about why they called the wicked witch Wicked. She wasn't, but it served the "other side" to have a villain. She saw injustices. She wanted to help the Animals. The wizard was the one hurting the Animals. He wanted her power, but when she wouldn't give it to him, he made her into the villain. The whole land of Oz united under the wizard to hunt down the wicked one.

I thought of how it felt leaving the church. They call those of us that leave apostates, anti-mormon, angry, bitter, and often even evil or wicked. What if instead of villainizing people, they listened to what they had to say? Couldn't they then make changes that make them into a better organization?

I thought of all of the politicking that goes on. It's ALL about "us" vs. "them". I feel frustrated trying to learn about Obamacare, because there are two sides that are both very extreme. Neither one makes sense. (It will not save the country, and it will not end the country.) I feel frustrated with the elections, because the politicians are ALL trying to get people to like them so they can gain power. All of them believe they can help and serve the country. None of them are "all good" or "all bad", but they all want you to believe "I am good. My opponent is bad."

In Wicked, they let you see the motivations of pretty much everyone. Everyone wants to do "good" and they believe they are. Even the wizard. He was trying to give the people what they wanted. He believed his lies were helpful. (All that I can think of is the quote, "Some things that are true are not very useful." vs. the quote from the play, "Truth isn't facts or reason, it's just what everyone agrees on!")

He explains it in his song, Wonderful:
WIZARD: See - I never had a family of my own. So, I guess I just - wanted to give the citizens of Oz everything.

ELPHABA(spoken) So you lied to them.

WIZARD (spoken) Elphaba, where I'm from, we believe all sorts of things that aren't true. We call it - "history."
(sung) A man's called a traitor - or liberator
A rich man's a thief - or philanthropist
Is one a crusader - or ruthless invader?
It's all in which label
Is able to persist
There are precious few at ease
With moral ambiguities
So we act as though they don't exist

People ARE more comfortable believing that everything is either good or bad. Right or wrong. But that is NOT reality. It's all just an unhealthy game of pretend. Reality is, "It's not good. It's not bad. It just IS."

(Side note. This makes my think of my high school history teacher. He did an awesome job of helping me to understand that there are way more sides to the story than what most history books tell you. The founding fathers were traitors to their country. They were radicals. My teacher even compared them to the man who bombed the WTC in Oklahoma. Killing people is acceptable if your side "wins".)

Defying Gravity is one of my favorite songs. I have loved the lyrics for a long time.
GLINDA (spoken) Elphie, listen to me. Just say you're sorry:
(sung) You can still be with the Wizard

What you've worked and waited for

You can have all you ever wanted:
 ELPHABA (spoken) I know: (sung) But I don't want it - No - I can't want it
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same

I'm through with playing by the rules

Of someone else's game.
Glinda tells her she can still have all the things she wanted, but she doesn't want it anymore. She has seen "behind the curtain", and it changed her. Even if she wanted to, she can't go back to being the person she was. That felt familiar. I don't want what I used to want, because I have been changed.

"Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep

It's time to trust my instincts

Close my eyes: and leap!"
I LOVE these lines. It's "too late to go back to sleep", so I'll trust my instincts. Amazing things happen when you can just trust your instincts.
"I'm through accepting limits ''cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change

But till I try, I'll never know!

Too long I've been afraid of

Losing love I guess I've lost

Well, if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost!"
I have repeated these lines to myself over and over and over.
I'm not going to pretend to be someone I'm not, just so that people will love me. "If that's love, it comes at much too high a cost!" And realizing that if the only kind of love I can have from people comes if I am pretending or pandering to them, I've already lost love, because that isn't love.

I loved watching the process that Elphaba goes through as well as the process that Glinda goes through.
The whole show was amazing.
I loved looking forward to going to the show for the last five months. (My ticket was a birthday present.)
I loved the company I was with.

SO grateful I got to go!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mormon Matters: Abuse and the Forgiveness Dilemma

A few weeks ago, Mormon Matters did a podcast titled "Abuse and the Forgiveness Dilemma". I don't usually pay much attention to Mormon podcasts, but this one caught my eye.

This is a paragraph from the description of the podcast. It kind of made me sob.
"But what about abuse victims? What about those who have been physically, sexually, emotionally abused—sometimes relentlessly and violently? How would they hear such messages? Is a warning that they must forgive their abusers, rapists, torturers or else they are even worse sinners than them a good one to hear? Can certain messages that are wonderful in most cases (and no one is imagining that abuse victims were on President Uchtdorf’s mind when he gave his remarks) be heard in spiritually and emotionally damaging ways by those whose self image distorted by internalized shame over the abuse they received as a child or whose lives are in danger or souls are being warped by abuse even in the present? Can such messages actually re-victimize these people? Are there circumstances in which even the beautiful message of “Families Are Forever” be heard as a threat—heard in such a way that a person might express a deliberate choice to live in hell rather than be forced to associate with their abuser(s) in heaven? The answer is yes."
My first thought was, "Where the hell were you people when I needed you?!?"
And then I remembered what the people in my life said YEARS ago:
(Here's an excerpt from the post I linked to.)
"She gave an analogy that hit me as absolute truth.
She is giving a presentation on eating disorders to 70 RA's tomorrow. Knowing that she is talking to people who like to help others, and are college students, there will be about five people in the audience with disordered eating. She was worried about giving certain suggestions or saying certain things, because she didn't want to say something that would hurt those five. She came to the conclusion that the sixty-five needed to hear what she had to say, and she had to hope that the five would be okay.
Just because they are saying it in conference, does not mean the message was to me personally.

She said, "If I told you I was falling apart, and I really needed you here," and I finished her thought, "I would be there tomorrow... In fact, I have thought about getting on a plane when you were sick, even when you didn't ask, because I love you and I wanted you to have a friend."

At the end of President Monson's talk, I also got a text from BJ:
"He was not talking to you. I listened to the entire talk. Not once did he say, 'Hey Jen, listen up!' or 'Now I am want to talk to victims of abuse that can't say no to people yet,' He didn't say anything close to that.""

Their words and their insights were invaluable to me, probably saved my life, and definitely made my life more livable.

So, knowing that was what this podcast was about, I both really wanted to listen and wanted nothing to do with it. A few months ago, I wrote about wanting to dump the baggage that the word forgiveness had for me. Listening to the podcast felt like a next step.

They started by talking Elder Uchtdorf's talk.
I didn't listen to the talk, but I read it because it got so much attention. This was the response I wrote in my journal:
"The thing about talks like this is:
Selfish assholes hear it, and think, "Yes. Everyone else should be more loving, accepting, and forgiving of me. Why doesn't (doormat) be more loving and just do what I want?"
Self-sacrificing doormats hear it, and they think, "Yes. I need to be more loving and accepting. Next time (asshole) says something awful, I will tell him that I love him and just do what he wants."

It's like the perfect recipe for a disastrous relationship."
As I listened to the podcast, I felt like they described my thoughts on forgiveness, love, boundaries, and choices perfectly.

Just a few thoughts as I listened:
(Sorry if it's a bit disjointed, these are the notes I took while I was listening.)

It is not appropriate for a mortal to try to absorb the consequences of another person's actions. If I do something to protect an abuser from the consequences of their choices, that is what I am doing. It isn't my job to protect them, it also isn't my job to punish them.
Forgiveness is NOT about the other person... It is NOT doing things to make the abuser's life better or easier... Forgiveness is about ME. It's about me leaving my pain behind. It's about me finding peace.

I've heard that thought before - we don't forgive for THEM, we forgive for ourselves...
I have also experienced abusive people asking for forgiveness because it made THEIR life easier, better, less painful... "Forgive me and just do what I want you to do." That is NOT forgiveness. It is manipulation. (And if a person is apologizing in this matter, it is not a real apology. A real apology ESPECIALLY in the case of abuse, will show more concern for the person that they hurt than for themselves. I wrote about what it felt like to get a real apology here.)

I can be Christlike and be forgiving, and yet not open my arms to an abuser that continues to cause me mental (or physical) anguish. Forgiveness is not about sacrificing your personal boundaries... I still get to choose who and what I want in my life. I ALWAYS get to choose. Forgiving doesn't take away my freedom - real forgiveness gives me more freedom.

Asking the survivor to forgive the perpetrator as part of the survivor "being a good person" is another way to make the survivor responsible for the abuse. That's WRONG. The survivor is not and never will be responsible for the abuse.

Shame. Shame is such a huge and horrible part of abuse. I have long believed that the beliefs I formed about myself and the world around me were FAR MORE damaging than all of the bruises or physical symptoms. Talks like Uchtdorf's only added to the shame.

If you believe what they say at church, "I am worse, because I can't forgive," and you KNOW you are a defective, bad, horrible person, you work so hard to be "good". You want so BADLY to be good, that you just keep signing up for more abuse... I KNOW that what they did was HORRIBLE, and I don't want to be like I try to be nice, and kind, and loving, and serve even those that hurt me. That is the OPPOSITE of what a healthy person does.

Saying that "not forgiving" is worse than the offense, puts people on equal footing when they shouldn't be on equal footing. Abuse is not the same as the "just being human and needing compassion".

It is GOD's responsibility to be the judge over another person. The "sin" is when I decide what another person should or should not do, and try to control them. Making my own choices about where I spend my time is NOT a sin, but telling another person they have to change or do what I want IS.

"Being judgmental is a sin. Choosing to move on or separate yourself from a relationship is NOT."

Judging abuse as bad, is also okay.
Is saying, "I can't stand that person, and the things they have done to ME," even close to the same as saying, "I hate the choices they are making with their life. I wish they wouldn't drink alcohol, or live with a woman they aren't married to, or have a tattoo."?
Those two statements are totally different, but it has taken me a long time to understand the difference.

Sometimes the best thing to do is GO. Here's an example from the scriptures.
Nephi left. He got away from Laman and Lemuel. He didn't stay and take more abuse. 
Follow your heart, your divine intuition, it's the only way to live, heal, and BE.
There are situations when anger IS righteous. Anger can protect us.

We can't paint with a broad brush. The journey and the process is VERY individual.

Suggestions on how to be helpful if someone trusts you enough to share their story:
  • Don't make assumptions. 
  • Ask questions.
  • Do NOT give me advice. 
  • Don't presume you know these relationships better than I do.
  • Don't presume you know what I should do better than I do.
  • Reaffirm my worth. I don't need you to reaffirm my courage. Don't marvel at me or my strength...
  • Don't presume what will happen, in this life or the next... Talking about a "forever family" is not always a comforting thing. (Although my family has been great, one of the big things that got me thinking about the church was when I looked at some of the people at church. I thought if I had to spend eternity with them, that would not be heaven, that would be hell.)
    "They know they are going to the celestial kingdom. I want nothing to do with them. If this is what heaven will be like, I'd rather go to hell."
  •  When I said that, I MEANT it. Hell was better than what I found in my relationship with the church.
    "In my opinion, a relationship becomes abusive when one person tells someone else they are not good enough. They need to change. And at the same time, won't let that person leave the relationship. (You are not good enough for me, but I won't let you be with anyone else.) That is what it felt like being a member of the church. I wasn't good enough for them, but I didn't have the choice to leave.

    Only, I did. I have the choice. I am not ever going to go back to a place or a relationship with anyone or any organization that makes me feel less than."
  • Abusers are charming. Victims stay quiet. You never know what other people have been through.
  • It is NOT. NEVER will be. the failing of the survivor who can't "hang in" any longer. NEVER. NOT. That is so so so so so wrong. 
This talk on forgiveness does NOT apply to victims of abuse.
God brings comfort and love. Total comfort and love. Anything else just isn't God.

I love what she said at the end... about her friend... She couldn't handle touch, so her friend sat at the edge of the bed and held her big toe. SO grateful for BJ.  He'd touch my head. The only place on my body that I could handle being touched was my head, and then my hands, and then I wanted to be held. So, he held me for hours and hours while my body and my mind healed.

You don't have to forgive, at least not in the way the church teaches forgiveness, in order to move on. It is not required of you.

The only thing that was hard to listen to in this podcast, was talking about horrific abuse... I have spent many years saying, "It wasn't rape, because it wasn't like what they experienced." or, "It wasn't abuse, because it wasn't as bad as it could have been." I have also listened to friends who said, "I wish he would have beat the shit out of me, because then at least I would have had the scars, and I could call it abuse." etc... Emotional abuse is devastating. Just because abuse doesn't look like it looks on TV, doesn't mean that it isn't. It is okay to move on and separate yourself even if you are not experiencing the VERY horrific things that Tresa and Natasha talked about.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I recently went to the Utah Fiddlin and Pickin Contest.
Eight hours of beautiful folk music: guitars, banjos, mandolins, harmonicas, and fiddles.

I have loved the violin as long as I can remember. (Actually, I think I've loved it longer than I can remember. I asked my mom about the first time I told her I wanted to play the violin. I was two.)

In therapy, one of the suggestions was to go back to a time that was good. With eating disorders, it is often before the eating disorder started. My eating disorder developed when I was fourteen, but I have struggled with self-hatred and self harm since I was five. My earliest memories are around the same time. I don't know what it was like before I hated myself.

Listening to these people of all ages play, I had a memory of something I can't remember. (I know I just contradicted myself. It is what it is...) I still don't remember anything before age five. My first memory is still praying for my grandma to live and knowing that she wouldn't.

And... sitting there... with the music playing... I remember my earliest feeling: I want that. That instrument is somehow a part of me, and I need to learn to play it. I felt like crying and laughing at the same time. That instrument holds so much joy for me. My love for the violin is one of the few pieces of me that I know existed... before everything else became a part of me.

I started to play when I was eight. A lot of scales. Twinkle Twinkle. Scratchy, screechy, and not very pretty. I remember the first time I felt like I was playing music: I was thirteen-ish. But even then, violin had become just another way to try to be "good enough". And trying to play while being completely out of touch with emotions was almost impossible. So, I put it away. I didn't touch the bow for nearly twelve years.

Playing now is SO different. I'm not saying I'm good - I'm saying I LOVE it. It's a part of me. A part that I know was me before any of the crap.

Here is me, playing "Bile 'em Cabbage Down". I have loved playing this since I was a teenager. I memorized it then, and it stayed in my memory even though I didn't play or practice for years.

I think my favorite part of the video is when my bow gets moving too fast, and I can't keep up with myself. :) There are times when I can play this song a lot better than I did, but I really like this version... enjoy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Yellowstone photodump

As a kid, I loved camping. My favorite family vacation memories are all camping, especially with the way my dad made camping a ton of fun. Camping to him, was all about the experience, so he made the experience great.

As an adult, I enjoyed camping up until a few years ago. The last time I tried sleeping in a tent was in 2008. I ended up spending the entire night walking laps around the campground.

Nightmares, night terrors, flashbacks, pseudo-seizures, insomnia, and sleep paralysis all made trying to sleep AWFUL. Adding a tent in the mountains to that mix was disastrous.
But I missed camping. I wondered if I would ever be able to enjoy it again.

A few months ago, I started planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park.
I researched all the good places to fish. Hikes I wanted to go on. Places I wanted to see.
I was excited, but I wasn't sure if I would sleep at all. BJ reassured me that if we needed to pack up and come home early because it was too hard to sleep in the tent, we would. I didn't have to worry.

It was awesome.

At night, I slept soundly.

 I spent the days exploring, hiking, fishing, and having the best time.
Firehole River with fumaroles and geysers all around. It was a beautiful (and interesting and different) site to see.

I visited Old Faithful, Fountain Paint Pots, Firehole Falls, Kepler Cascades, Sulfur Caldron, and several other amazing sites. 
I hiked up Nez Pearce Creek and fished along the way.
I hiked around in Yellowstone Grand Canyon, and visited Artist's Point. (It was slightly anti-climactic to get to the end of the hike and realize we could have driven there... Still, it was gorgeous.) 
I hiked up DeLacie Creek to Shoshone Lake and fished along the way. (Three miles to the lake. ONLY accessible via trail. That was way cool.)
I fished the Gibbon, the Madison, and the Gallatin.
I was devoured by flies and mosquitoes... it was itchy for a few days, and then it got better.
And I didn't get eaten by a bear, because I promised my mom I wouldn't.
I survived BJ keeping and eating a fish. (Hey Dad, are you proud? I did it!)

A pool of very hot water. I can't remember it's real name, but BJ called it "Pool of Instant Death"

A geyser that wasn't Old Faithful, but I thought it was cooler than Old Faithful.

Nez Pearce - I caught the first fish that day, which meant I caught the first fish of the trip!

Sometimes BJ likes to hike in his socks.

Climbing over logs to cross the stream to get to the little hole (without frightening fish). This is my, "I'm triumphant!" pose.

My "honey hole". Seven casts in a row = seven fish in a row. (I love that BJ's fly rod is also in this picture.)

Mosquito bites. My whole body looked like this. Even with long sleeves and insect repellent. Nobody better give me any lectures on "selfcare". I tried!

I just thought this tree was amazing. It was still alive and growing. It should have been dead and on the bottom of the canyon, but it found a way to not only survive, but thrive. I admire trees (and animals, and people) like this one.

The falls from the trail. Do you love my Chaco's? I love my Chaco's.

The falls from Artist's Point.

Fishing the Gibbon

I'm very proud of this picture. To me it just says, "Montana Fly Fishing". That was a great day.

It was such a good, healing, relaxing, wonderful trip. Feels like ME. That feels happy, and exciting, and... good! The next trip has been planned for more than a year. It will include horses... updates to follow. :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I'm not just talking about the trees

I just got back from an amazing trip to Yellowstone National Park. (I'll probably upload a bunch of pictures and write about it later...)

While there, I hiked along the rim of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Everything was beautiful, breathtaking, and amazing.

This tree caught my eye:
Here's a closeup of the roots:

There is no reason why that tree should still be standing, let alone growing. But it is.

Looking at this tree, I felt inspired.
Even when there was no ground left beneath it; even when it could have let go and gone tumbling down the hill; even when there were other trees dying around it. Somehow, it found a way to hang on, and even grow.

Just a couple of years ago, I needed evidence that I could survive the hell I was in. I paid attention to the trees growing out of solid rock, or with no ground beneath them, or twisted to find some sunlight, or any number of things that should kill a tree, and I'd feel hopeful. I knew I could survive.

I don't need evidence like that anymore. I have no doubt that I will not only survive, but I will thrive. Life will be good - I already know that, because it IS good.

I still love the tremendous beauty of the survivors. The ones that are still here. The ones that have faced things that no one should ever have to face. The ones who grew around it. The ones that found a way to not only survive, but thrive and grow. I admire their twists, their exposed roots, their knots, and bumps, and all of the beautifully unique results of surviving something that no one should survive.

To the survivors: you are beautiful. you are strong. you are amazing. Thank you for the beauty you bring to this world. You inspire me.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

There has to be a better definition of 'okay'

My mom had surgery last week. She spent a few days in the hospital. BJ went with me to visit her.
As we left, he had a good chuckle. He says I am just like my mom. Or my mom is just like me.

This is how the conversation went:

Me: Are you in pain?What hurts?
Mom: Yeah, but I'm okay. (weak and unconvincing smile)
Me: You're in pain, that means you're not okay.
Mom: No. I'm okay. I'm not dead, and death is not imminent... so I'm okay.
(BJ burst out laughing at this point)
Me: There has to be a better definition of okay... (and then I realized WHY BJ was laughing, so I stopped talking for a second.) I want to know if you're in pain. I can SEE that you're not dead, but I care about you, so I want to know how you are doing... So, the proper response would be, "Hell yes, I am in pain! I just had my insides ripped out!"
Mom: Fine. I hurt. And I feel CRAPPY! Ok?

Ok. I get it. I just got schooled.

What I just said to my mom is exactly what other people have said to me. (Including BJ.)
I want my mom to talk more about what she's going through... maybe other people feel the same way towards me. (Okay. Not maybe. They've said they want more... I just had a hard time believing them.)