Friday, December 30, 2011

Tell them you love them. or. Say what you mean to say.

It's been a few weeks ago that I read something over at Single Dad Laughing, but it still has me thinking... and thinking... I'm trying to sort my thoughts out, and write them in a way that makes sense. The trouble I keep running into (in my own head) is that what Single Dad says seems to make sense, but it also doesn't... And I guess I've tried to live like he suggests living... and it didn't work. This is me just sorting it out.

It's been almost a year ago that I started the post, "Not the problem I thought I was", but I've never finished it... In that post I wrote about how I have always blamed myself for everything: If someone abused or mistreated me it was because I wasn't good enough, kind enough, quiet enough. In other words, it was always my fault and my responsibility (never theirs) for their abusive behavior. If I ever finish that post, I will write about how I DO have some responsibility in the way people have treated me but it wasn't that I needed to be nicer, kinder, more positive, but instead I needed to take care of myself. It is my responsibility to decide how I want to be treated, and to communicate that. It is also my responsibility to leave any situation that is not healthy.

I was married to my first husband for two years.  For two years, I told him I loved him CONSTANTLY. I repeated it whenever I saw him. I wrote him notes telling him what a wonderful person he was. I really thought if I could just be nice enough, he would be kind back. If I just loved him enough and said it enough, he would treat me better... So I tried to be the nicest, kindest, sweetest, most loving and selfless person on the planet.. I apologized when I had done nothing wrong, but HE thought I had. I stopped fighting him, gave in to everything he said he wanted me to do, NEVER expressed my needs, thoughts, desires, hopes... That didn't stop him from mistreating me. In many ways, it made things worse. In psychological terms, I rewarded him for abusing me, so he continued abusing me. Finally, one day I saw the way out, and I took it. (Off-topic, but can you imagine how it must have felt to be HIM? In one instant, he thinks everything is good and I love him so much, and the next I'm telling him that I want a divorce. BJ says any logical or sane person would have recognized that I wasn't happy long before I asked for divorce, still... in my effort to be nice to him, I think I made it worse.)

Single Dad Laughing talks about how we all need to be loved, and we all need to hear we are good people, so no matter what OTHERS are doing, say, "You are a good person. I love you." In other words, no matter what I am feeling, or what I am experiencing, or how it might hurt me, think first (and only) of the other person. At the same time, he ends the post by saying that if you do that, then you'll hear the same back from the other person. I'm having a hard time reconciling his ideas.

First, if I am saying that in order to get someone else to say it back, that is being manipulative. If I am saying that to get the other person to do ANYTHING, I am trying to manipulate them. It feels icky. In order for that saying to do good, I have to say it and mean it, and have no expectation of getting anything in return. I was kind to people because I thought if I was just kind enough, they'd be kind to me. In other words, I was walking around lying to  myself and to them, and it didn't work. I can't say, "I love you," with any expectation or it isn't love...

Second, it feels good to be kind and loving, but if I am being kind and loving to someone else at the expense of myself, that doesn't feel good. That also feels icky. By "being kind" by not expressing my needs, thoughts, feelings, and then staying in the situation , I was hurting myself. I'm not advocating namecalling or telling other people how to live their lives. I am talking about saying, "When you hit me, or call me names, or (fill in the blank), I feel scared, hurt, sad, (etc.), and I don't really want to be around you." I believed that loving someone else meant that I let them hurt me. I stayed in a place that was emotionally and physically violent so he would know he was loved. It has taken me years to learn that getting myself out of situations that are triggering or harmful or even uncomfortable is a very acceptable and healthy thing to do.

Third, I'm thinking about intimate relationships I have in my life today. They did not come from stuffing what I felt inside and saying, "You are a good person, and I love you." Those intimate relationships became intimate because I was completely and totally honest and open with my feelings.

I was married to Dann for seven years. We were separated for almost three. While we were going through our back and forth do-we-stay-married-or-divorce-or-what-the-hell-do-we-do-now? stage, we were talking. I can't remember how the conversation started, but I felt angry with him. I wanted to leave and go back to my place, because I didn't want to tell him what I was feeling. He asked me to stay, and told me he wanted to know ME, which meant knowing my anger and my pain as well.

I cried. I can't remember if I used the words, but I definitely expressed anger and hatred towards him and the way he had treated me in the past. His reply is one of the reasons we are still friends today. He listened. Intently. And then he said, "It's really hard to listen to you say those things. It's really hard to see the anger in your eyes. Part of me really wants to lash back and tell you how wrong you are, but I'm not doing that, because I told you I wanted to know YOU, and I meant that. I also recognize that you are not wrong - I just wish you were," and then we talked. About all of the pain I felt, how worthless I had felt when he had done certain things, and all of the anger that I had been too scared to express to him for SEVEN years of marriage. I had thought it was my job to forgive him, love him, and tell him he was good... so I'd hold it in. (Lest you think I was saintlike, I wasn't. I felt like I should be super kind and quiet and loving, but I also didn't want to repeat the situation with my first husband, so I'd express anger rarely, but in explosive ways. Either inward at myself through self-harm or eating disorder, or at him indirectly. Or when he was already angry, and I'd push him to the edge to punish him. or... yeah, you get the picture. It was miserable for both of us.) For me, his willingness to listen changed everything. His reply was NOT, "You are a good person and I love you." He was both honest and calm, and that FELT safe and loving. It was a real, open, AWESOME conversation that started a really great friendship.

Intimacy, friendship, closeness all come from expressing emotions. They don't come from ignoring the emotions or pretending they aren't there. They don't come from saying one thing when you feel something else entirely.

I think it is important to be true to ourselves. Express love when you mean it. Express sorrow when you mean it. Say what you mean to say. Nothing more, and nothing less.
By being true and honest about who I am, I give other people the opportunity to be true and honest about who they are. It's a beautiful, wonderful, powerful thing.

"When we are liberated from our fears, our presence automatically liberates others."

Thought that didn't fit in anywhere else, but I still want to say #1:
There are moments when dealing with a spouse or a child that you can say, "You are a good person. I love you. I am (fill in the blank: tired, angry, frustrated, sad, exhausted, happy, busy) and I don't want to talk about this with you right now. Let's talk later." This is a way to defuse a situation and can be very helpful. It lets people know that your love for them is not contingent upon your emotional state. Children often believe that if you are angry at them, you don't love them. They internalize other people's emotions. This is a way to help counter that.

Thought that didn't fit in anywhere else, but I still want to say #2:There are also people I have no interest in having a close relationship with. To those people, I have no problem telling them they are a good person and that I have love for them. That is true - I don't believe anyone isn't a good person, and I have love for everyone. Still... going deeper requires going deeper.

Thought that didn't fit in anywhere else, but I still want to say #3: We all have a need to be loved... but no matter how many people tell us we are good and we are loved, until we find that within ourselves, it will never be enough. Other people will have to keep filling us up. That need to have others love us makes us dependent on others.

I was driven by fear that I might lose others' love. In order to keep the love of others, I allowed people to abuse and mistreat me. I ignored myself and my needs in the hopes that would make me good (and therefore loved). But, because I didn't love me, and because I KNEW they didn't know ME, their love felt hollow. No one else could fill the emptiness that hating myself created. No one.
Now instead of telling everyone else how much I love them, First and foremost, I tell myself that I love myself, and then trust that love to guide me. That makes me a more loving person.

Life is different today. It feels GOOD to be loved for who I am, and it feels good that there are people who don't like me. There are people who love me for me, and there are people who dislike me for me. The very same qualities that some people call "good", others call "bad". It's all about personal preference. Instead of living to please everyone by pretending to have only "good" qualities (which meant being a completely different person depending who I was with), I am just me. Always. I don't need everyone to love me. I just need me to love me. It also feels good to find other people who happen to love me too.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Horse vs. Train

Last September, I was out trail riding. Running. I got off balance, Sunny (the horse) stumbled, and I did a beautiful flip over his shoulder. I landed on my back and got a hoof to my nose. I have not let Sunny run all out since that day. We've run on the trails, but I've always held him back.

Recently, we were out on a GREAT running trail. It's seven miles long, smooth, wide, and very few people on it. With BJ and Bo in front, we ran, but Bo can't run even close to what Sunny can do when I let him.

We were stopped. Looking out at the lake when we saw the train coming. (The tracks parallel the trail, following the edge of the lake.)

BJ asked who I thought would win: Sunny or the train.
Suddenly, all fear was gone, and we were off!!
We ran as fast as Sunny could go. No holding back.

That just felt good.

...eventually BJ and Bo caught up to us. :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lindsey Stirling: Transcendence

I love the violin. Lindsey Stirling is one of my favorite artists. I just found these two videos. And had to share.

This one first. (this is the actual song)

This one second. (behind the scenes)

All that we think is reality is just a projection. Transcend the projection.
Be you.

Totally rocking the Christmas presents

I'm writing this on December 20th, because it is KILLING me to not tell anyone what they are getting for Christmas. I hate secrets. I don't like surprises. And when it is something so fun as PRESENTS... But I won't post until after Christmas.

But I've done it. I didn't even tell people when the opportunity was perfect, and usually people would have seen it ALL OVER my face. I'm totally awesome.

Conversation #1. With my sister. She wants gift cards for Christmas. I totally got her gift cards. She was telling me how she really needs clothes, but she's afraid people will be scared to give her a gift card. And she can't really see them trying to pick out clothes for her... I didn't even tell her. I kept a straight face. HA! She'll be so excited!

Conversation #2: I got Dann a volleyball. We were talking on the phone, and he told me he was very tempted to go buy himself a new volleyball. He really wants one. But he's decided to be patient and see if anyone gets him one for Christmas. That MIGHT have been a huge hint, but I had already bought it. At this moment it is still being shipped. FedEx can't seem to find my address. Hopefully it gets here before Christmas.

Conversation #3: For BJ, I got a magnifying glass (for tying flies). I was taking a guess. He'd never said he needed one, but I've watched him tie flies, and I've watched all of the videos on how to tie flies. Everyone in the videos has one, but he doesn't. This morning, he was telling me he really wanted to get himself one. He took a class, and he was amazed at how much it helped in tying his flies. HA! Score for Jen. I also bought him a watercolor technique book.

(Update on December 23):
It is now the day BEFORE Christmas Eve, and I have still not spilled the beans. Mostly. This morning BJ said he was going to run to the craft store to buy watercolors for himself, and then stop at the fly shop so he can get a little magnifying glass.

I told him that he's not allowed to buy anything for himself the day before Christmas Eve. Which means, I pretty much gave away what I was getting him. He might think I am getting him watercolors. He kept asking me questions about what I think he wants to paint next, (a fish, but I wasn't sure what kind of fish he wanted to paint, so I didn't buy him those.)

Still... All things considering... I'm doing amazing.

(Update on December 26):
Dann got TWO volleyballs. There were a couple of us that were listening to him when he said what he wanted. BJ loved his presents. He just kept saying, "It feels so good to have someone who knows me." He's right. It feels amazing. This Christmas was awesome.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I love being a big sister.

(I'm writing this December 22, but I won't be able to post it until after Christmas... That way my mom will be surprised by her present, and I get to write what I'm thinking today.)

A few days ago, my sister was looking through pictures of when we were kids. She came across a picture of us building sandcastles. I was about 14. My sister 6, and my brother 3. She looked at it, and asked, "Did you like being a big sister?"

Of course I did. I still do. Why?
She pointed out that a fourteen year old building sandcastles with little kids... some people wouldn't like that so much. I never was normal.

I loved being a big sister. I think I took pride in them (especially the two youngest) like a parent would. I felt the most comfortable spending time with them. I preferred their company to friends my own age almost any time.
My little brothers and sister were my whole life.

That night, I went to watch Justin perform in the Christmas Carol. I'm not a huge fan of that play, but I LOVE watching Justin perform. It makes me happy to see him do things he loves. It makes me happy to see how good he is. It REALLY makes me happy to hear his buddy's do "the Justin laugh" and watch Justin try to stay in character. It just makes me happy.

I love watching Mellen play soccer. I get anxious for her whenever she is goalie. I want to jump for joy and cheer whenever she plays forward. Even now. It makes me happy.

After the family Christmas party (which was really hard for me), I loved that Mellen and I could drive home and talk. About everything on her mind and on my mind, and it was just awesome. 

For Christmas, Justin recorded a CD of himself singing to give to my mom. He asked me to accompany him. (Also one of my very favorite things in the whole world!) They recorded me first, and I could have left, but I SO enjoy watching Justin sing. Besides the fact that he is really good - I just feel so proud of him and so touched watching him.

I really love being a big sister. I got to see all of my siblings grow up, change, become who they are. I've gotten to love them and know them from day one. I got to help raise them, and now I love watching them be adults.

Being their sister is a big part of who I am and who I want to be.

Lesson learned

Something to remember about myself:
I feel anxious when I am not acknowledging myself and my wants.
As soon as I acknowledge what I want, I feel better. That doesn't necessarily mean I have to say a word to anyone else. I just acknowledge I have wants. To MYSELF.
Doesn't mean I will get what I want. It just means I am honest with myself about what I want.
The End.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas traditions

It's Christmas EVE!

In honor of Christmas Eve, I'd like to share two of my favorite Christmas traditions:

Tradition #1:
I totally should have gotten those shoes.
I'm not sure when it started, but for Christmas my dad takes my sister and I out shopping. He buys us our Christmas present, we go out to dinner, and my favorite part is just hanging out with the three of us.

Totally one of my favorite things about Christmas time. (Except that all three of us hate shopping.)

The conversation as we were leaving this year:
Mel (sister): I don't know how long I can handle shopping. My back is killing me, and if I stand for longer than like five minutes my whole leg goes to sleep.

Jen (me): That's ok. I get dizzy just standing around. All the blood pools in my feet, and I have to sit down or move.

Dad: yeah. right back at BOTH of you.

It was destined to be a short shopping trip, but it wasn't. We had a hard time deciding what we wanted this year. STILL. Way fun. Love just being together.

Tradition #2:
Making wrapping presents look beautiful.
It started when we were all really little. My dad would take all of the kids out to do something, so my mom could finish putting together Christmas whateverness without the kids underfoot. When I was around 9 or 10 years old, I decided I didn't WANT to go sledding, I wanted to stay home and help wrap presents.

I don't like surprises. Never have. So, getting to see what everyone else got for Christmas the day before they did, was AWESOME! I liked being "behind the scenes" and helping my mom, and being in the know, and I just liked it. Eventually, my sister joined us. The boys go out and do "something fun". The girls stay back and wrap presents.

I now have a couple sisters-in-law who don't get this tradition. And I get that. It sounds awful. The women stay home and work while the boys go play. In principle, I'm against this tradition., in reality, I love it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Protecting Abusers

After my last post, BJ and I were talking. He said something to the effect of, "But you understand the desire to protect abusers. You still do it yourself."

Oh yeah. I do.

I've had panic and anxiety for three days following sharing with my brothers that my uncles had molested my cousin. I should protect them (my uncles). They're good people. So, yeah they molested at least three little girls, but... it's okay. Just keep it quiet. Don't tell anyone. Think of how it will affect them, their kids, their wives, my grandma... Think about everyone else, keep the secret, even if it kills me. Maybe they've changed and repented, and isn't fair to bring up their past...Why do they deserve to hurt just because I am? Or just because my cousin is? Geez, Jen, don't you believe in change and forgiveness? When are you just going to get over it?? They hurt you, but you don't KNOW that anyone else is getting hurt. It gives you anxiety to watch their teenage sons with little girls, but that's just you being overreactionary. And around and around it goes in my head.

The truth is, they did what they did. Pretending that they didn't do it is silly. Lying to protect them from the consequences won't heal or help anyone.Talking about it is the only way for things to change. (Which is why I wanted to tell my brothers so bad, and why I did tell them, even though it caused killer panic and anxiety ever since.)

The thing that makes ALL abuse possible is secrecy. As a child, I was sworn to secrecy. They said things like, "If you love me, you'll do this."
"This is what grownups do, and some people don't think you're big enough to do these things, so don't tell anyone. You want to be grownup don't you?"
"This is our little secret. Just between you and me, isn't this fun?"
"Don't tell your mommy and daddy. Think of how sad it will make your mom that you did this. And your dad will be so mad at both of us. You don't want him to be mad, do you?"
My mom remembers me trying to tell her "a secret", but I couldn't do it. She remembers me being so worked up, but in the end I didn't tell her, and we both forgot for the next twenty-five years.

As an adult, we keep abuse a secret for many different reasons.
"I love you, and this is just between us, so I won't tell my parents that the bruises I have came from you."
"Don't get anyone else involved."
"People will know I hit you because you deserve it."

I didn't share the horrible things that abusers have said to me. I haven't shared a lot of things that people have said to me, because I was worried that others would agree. If I told the bishop that my husband called me a "dirty whore", he'd agree. So I kept it secret to protect both the abuser and myself.

I understand why people protect abusers. I understand why abuse is kept secret. I understand why people blame the victim. I have done a lot to protect abusers. I have kept abuse a secret, and I have blamed the victim (me). Knowing all of that about myself, and knowing that there HAS to be a better way, I keep on writing and talking and searching and hoping.

My goal is still to heal ALL of us.

Should Mormon bishops stand trial for not reporting abuse?

Reading the Deseret News this morning. Here's my thoughts:

Bishops saying things like Moon did comes from their complete and total ignorance of what it is like to be sexually assaulted... They don't get it. They don't understand. They think they speak for God even when they are speaking in complete and utter ignorance.

This bishop asked the girl to think about her abuser, and how her reporting would affect HIS life. That's just stupid. He asked her to consider changing the way she dressed, which is common way to blame the victim rather than ask the young man who assaulted her to take responsibility. My guess is he meant well, but in his ignorance, he served to aid an abuser.

Luckily, the girl's mother set up an appointment with a detective that same day. Luckily, the girl TALKED to her mother and her mother listened. I went to the bishop, and I stopped there. When he told me not to worry about it, I took him at his word. I didn't understand that he didn't speak for God... That I had every right to pursue MY rights and to talk about it. I didn't go to my mom, or other friends, or a therapist. I just went on as if nothing happened.

I'd hate to see somebody having to serve time just for being ignorant AND at the same time, how else do we start educating people? If there are no consequences for being ignorant asses, why would they change? And how do we tell other people like me that it is OKAY to talk about it, even if the bishop tells you not to? The more awareness we can create, the less this will happen.

Victims will be treated with respect and understanding and get the help they need. It's also my hope that perpetrators, bishops, parents, counselors, teachers, friends will be made more aware of what is going on and get the help they need as well. My goal is to heal ALL of us.

But nothing will change if someone doesn't do something to create the change.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Exponent: Modesty

This is an old post on The Exponent, but I just read it. This is EXACTLY what I have tried to say, but never quite succeeded. The topic is modesty and the sexualization of women.

"The problem is much more radical—radical meaning a problem of roots. The underlying, root cause of the sexualization of today’s girls is the same underlying, root problem of their mother’s alleged promiscuity and inability to talk to their daughters about appropriate dress and sexual behavior.
And since I am Mormon and this is a feminist Mormon forum, I’m focusing on the Mormon aspect of this problem: that our culture of hypermodesty contributes to the sexualization of young girls as much as a culture of absent modesty does.
It’s very easy to fixate on the extreme of young girls and young women getting all dolled up like little prostitutes and then to scream foul at irresponsible parents and the terrible media and the evil feminists, but our own emphasis on the externalities of modesty sends the same message: females are first and foremost sexual beings, meant to attract the sexual interest of men in order to reproduce, which is, after all, the divinely sanctioned role for women (if you believe the contemporary Mormon church, anyway). Both extremes (the extreme cover up and the extreme exposure) reduce girls to their bodies—their sexual bodies and the capacity of those bodies to attract the male gaze and set off a process that ultimately leads to sex and reproduction. The fact that the Mormon version ends up with sex and reproduction within marriage does not change the fact that that is how we define women. And the fact that we think sex and reproduction within marriage is a Good does not change that defining women in such a limited fashion is Not Good.
The Mormon emphasis on external, clothing-oriented modesty is just another form of sexualization. We attempt to negate the sexualization of young girls’ and women’s bodies by covering them up and locking them behind the door called Chastity. But when the female body is taboo because of its inherent sexuality (a sexuality so powerful that a woman literally turns herself into pornography for some men by dressing immodestly, according to that canard advanced by Dallin Oaks), and when women are celebrated almost exclusively because of their potential as breeders and nurturers of children, then we successfully sexualize the female body every bit as much as pushing heels, padded bras, plunging necklines, and miniskirts for pre-teens does. The invisibility of the female body, or of the attributes of the female body that stand for Sex, does not mean we have refused to grant the female body a sexualized status."
(Emphasis mine. I had a hard time picking what quotes I wanted to highlight, so I copied a lot, but there's still a lot more good stuff.. Go read the whole thing at the Exponent.)

I'm not against teaching girls to love and respect their bodies. In fact, PLEASE teach that... Just understand that by telling a woman it is respectful to HIDE her body, or that she is responsible for men's thoughts about her, or that if she wears a tanktop she is "asking for it" does NOT teach love and respect. I learned to hate my body: the teachings on modesty combined with my life experience created a deep hatred for everything about my body. I tried to hide it, shrink it to nothingness, kill it, avoid it, until one day... I just had to do it differently.

I liked Amelia's final proposal:
"I have a radical proposal: the church and Mormon parents should teach girls that they have value without connecting that value to the sexiness of their bodies, their attractiveness to men, their capacity to make babies.
I guarantee that if we prepare our daughters to be successful, well-rounded individuals rather than spending so much effort to prepare them to fill a preconceived concept of “wife and mother,” then we’ll have a sure way to get away from both ends—extreme cover up and extreme exposure—of the sexualization spectrum. When we do so, we will see women and girls as human beings with enormous worth and potential, with wonderful things to offer the world."

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's time to stop working and time to start dancing!

I have a great job. I get to work with my best friend. Work has been super busy, which is awesome, because it means more money. It's been a bit stressful, because I've had a hard time keeping up with all the orders.

This afternoon, I was downstairs pulling an order when the music upstairs got really loud. Then I hear, "Hey Jen! This is your boss speaking. It's time to stop working, and time to start dancing."

So we danced. And laughed. And then we got back to work, (and probably worked much faster).
Feels good to just be here today.

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.
~ Lao Tzu

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Help: Who knows what I become?

I'm thinking about a line in the book, The Help.
"Why? Why are you hitting me?" He leaned down and looked me right in the face. "If I didn't hit you, Minny, who know what you become."
He actually thought he was helping her. He actually believed what he was doing was in HER best interest. I love the next line in the book:
"I was trapped in the corner of the bedroom like a dog. He was beating me with his belt. It was the first time I'd ever really thought about it Who knows what I could become, if Leroy would stop goddamn hitting me.
(Spoiler alert: She got out! No more wondering who she'd become without having to deal with the constant abuse.)

There was a time when life was nothing more than survival. Life is not easy today, but "not easy" today compared to "not easy" a while ago... WOW! It's amazing the room I have in my brain to think. To hope. And to both be the change and create the change I want to see.

Watch out everybody: This girl's out to change the world.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Just because they didn't take the handful of pills DOES NOT mean they are hurting any less.

My heart hurts today. Yesterday, one of my favorite people decided to end her own life. Luckily, she shared her plan on facebook, and there were way too many of us to let her just go. (Facebook has a way to report suicide threats. As well as a link to Suicide Hotlines all over the world.) Her father got to her and got her to the hospital. She's been in the ICU on a breathing machine, but is now breathing on her own.

My heart hurts for the friend that was hurting so much that she saw no better way. My heart hurts for how hard she's fought, and how close I came to losing my friend. My heart just hurts.

I spent the day with another friend who has been really struggling for a while. She's suicidal and depressed, and watching Kate go through all this is only adding to her struggle. I know that just because she hasn't taken the pills, doesn't mean she isn't hurting just as much. Kate's getting the love and support, because people KNOW what is going on, but other friends are not. And I'll say it again:

Just because they didn't take the handful of pills DOES NOT mean they are hurting any less. They need to be heard, to be loved, to be accepted just as much. My hope is that one day, everyone will have someone who will listen to them, love them, and accept them BEFORE it gets to this point. Kate's father went to her house when she was nearly dead, but she had told her parents for months that she was hurting. She had been trying to get them to see her, to give her the love she so desperately needed, but they wouldn't hear. (I know... there comes a point when you have to just say, "Who cares what my parents think, and go on living without their love, but that just sucks. No one should HAVE to do that.) I don't think she realized how many friends around the world she has. How many people she has touched. How many people REALLY love her. Here are some of the things her friends have posted in the last two days:
"So very sad and worried tonight about a friend who tried to take her own life today simply because she is told over and over that she can't be her wonderful self. This madness has got to stop. If you are the praying type, please pray for my friend, Kate. If you are not the praying type--positive thoughts and energy. What is wrong with our society when people think they are better off dead then being GLBT? She is in ICU."
And one more:
"Struggling today. A wonderful woman tried to end her life yesterday. She is a lesbian, and her family has been taught by their church that she less of a person because of that. And consequently treat her as less of a person because of that. They "love the sinner", which may sound okay at first blush, but at it's core is a judgmental statement, which automatically denigrates the person it's directed at.

One of her last posts before she went and took a double handful of pills stated that she wished she could be straight, because then maybe her mother and father would love her. Doesn't exactly sound like someone who *chose* to be gay, does it?

My heart hurts for her, and for all those in her position, who are rejected either tacitly or outright by friends and family because of their religious beliefs. It's almost 2012 people. Can we finally shrug off the 2000 year old prejudices? Can we simply love and accept people for who they are inside? Stop the judgement. Stop the hate. Stop the inequality. As a parent, I simply cannot fathom rejecting my children for who they are, or who they're attracted to.

This change isn't coming quickly enough for some..."
And one that took a lot of courage to share,
"For those who may or may not know, I have officially resigned from the LDS church. I haven't really talked about it publicly. One of the key triggers in my apostasy, or enlightenment, depending on your point of view, was Prop 8. I am not gay but a staunch supporter of the Constitution and basic human rights. I am a member/participant of a few post/exMormon groups. Today, a friend I met in one of these groups posted her suicide farewell on FB shortly after posting the following: "I just wish I was straight My Mum and Dad would love me if I were straight." She made it to the hospital but has been recently moved to the ICU. I'm deeply saddened and my emotions are spent as I've been following all day on pins and needles.
I refuse to allow my children to be raised with the "Better dead clean, than alive unclean" religious moral mentality. May we love our family & friends for who they ARE and not who we believe they should be."
Today, I am crying for all those that are hurting. I am smiling for all those that can see and are making changes. I'm crying for all those that don't understand the pain they are causing. I'm smiling for the progress I have made.

I've been through this before with other friends. I've called the police. I've shown up on a doorstep and insisted they go to the hospital. I've sat on the phone across the country talking someone out of taking their own lives. I didn't write about any of those things, because back then, I was barely hanging on myself.  For the first time in my entire life, I am not wishing it was me that was dying. Death (or near death or talk of suicide) has always triggered me. I didn't realize why until today, when this isn't triggering me. I dreamed of dying. I felt jealousy whenever someone else got to do it, and I didn't. And then I felt crazy for wanting to die. Who gets jealous of death?

Those feelings have changed. I can be here and present with those that are hurting, because I'm not looking for my own way out. Now, I can say, "It gets better. Just hang in there. I know it hurts. I know it seems like there is no better way, but there is."

It really does get better.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Complete: I own all of me.

When I came downstairs this morning, BJ looked at me and said, "You look different."

At first I thought about how emotionally and physically exhausted I feel, but that's not it. I FEEL different. I haven't talked much about DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), and it hasn't really been a part of my life for a while. At the same time, I've known there was one more piece.

I called it The Rapist.
It was the part of me that held sexuality, anger, rage, the primal instincts to hunt, an aggressor.

I spent much of my life believing I was an object to serve others. I wasn't even allowed to defend myself against anything. Anger was bad. BAD. BAD. BAD. Only monsters felt angry, and only really big monsters did anything with that anger.

(Once upon a time, I informed BJ that if we were ever attacked by a bear while we were riding, I would let the bear kill me, because I didn't want to hurt it. He asked if I would hurt the bear to save him, and my answer was, "No. I'll just get the bear to eat me, so you can get away.")

I learned it was okay to feel anger, because that helped to keep me safe. I learned it was okay to defend myself... but my defenses were mostly to avoid and to hide. Those defenses are good defenses. (Especially since I'm small. It would be darn right silly for me to try to take on a bear.) I still was not allowed to even think about anything besides defending myself. There was also a part of me always waiting for the other person to act before I could decide how I would act.

Something in me has changed once again. It is okay to go on the offense sometimes. It is okay to make a choice and act on what I want. I am still not a violent person. Can't even imagine hitting another person... or an animal.. maybe a tennis racket to a couch cushion :) sometimes. I will never try to hurt someone else. I hope I will always be aware of how I am affecting others, but... It is okay that I feel angry. It is okay that I feel violent. It is okay to want. To go after what I want. To hunt. I am a wild woman, and I don't have to pretend that I am not.

I'm having a hard time using my words...Something is just different. I'm more whole. All of the pieces that used to be broken apart are now together as one person.

I'm whole. I own every part of me.

Another angry post.

I'm not exactly sure what triggered it... Probably a combination of all of these things:

BJ getting a text from his ex yesterday afternoon that really upset him, and that really upset me. And then he asked, "Why is it that you can feel anger at the way she treats me, but I have never once heard you express anger at Larry?" and I started thinking about it.

Reading SilverRain's blog about healing from Domestic Violence, and feeling both hopeful and sad.

Maybe my own posts from earlier today: Letting it go or Rapists. Or... that facebook just decided to suggest my ex-sister-in-law as a possible friend. Apparently she just friended one of my friends from high school. I have not seen Larry since he went to Texas for a job interview. (While he was there, I told him I wanted a divorce.) Paul (old therapist) once suggested I should look him up. Confront him, but I had no way of contacting him, and no desire to do so. But now I can see pics of him with his current girl... I wonder if he treats her better...

Catching just a few minutes of the movie Uncle Buck. A fifteen year old girl is with her boyfriend. He wants sex. She tells him no, and asks him to stop. He tells her to "just relax. It's okay." which are the very words I heard ALL the time back then... Uncle Buck throws the kid in the trunk of the car, and lets the girl stand over him with an electric drill. She doesn't do anything to him, but the kid knows she COULD, and he apologizes... Not a very real apology, the kind that says, "I'm scared shitless and I'll say anything to get you not to do what I think you're about to do."

Watching Stargate... a scientist has been torturing a girl to get her to tell him what he wants to know. He justifies it. He has no remorse. The agent questioning him says he just wants to beat the shit out of him.

I'm scared out of my mind. I've never thought that before. I don't want him to hurt, but dammit... I do. He raped me. He took advantage of the fact that I had no boundaries and no ability to tell him no, and he HURT me. And he blamed me for the pain he caused. And then he could just go on with his life... He didn't have to deal with the pain of flashbacks or nightmares... He didn't have to deal with the questions. He didn't have to give up everything in order to heal his life... The only thing he lost was ME, but he got to keep the rest of his life. How is that even fair? And I just want to beat the shit out of him. Or throw him in a trunk, tie him up and stand over him in just such a way that he KNOWS what it feels like to be completely powerless in his own skin.

Ah. Damn. I'm angry. REALLY angry. I hate that.
Only... crying and SAYING I'm angry... I don't feel so angry anymore.

I used to be so afraid of feeling anger. Or feeling violent. But it wasn't so bad... In fact, although those few moments of sobbing was intense, it all moved through me pretty quickly.

Oh, and by the way, today has been exhausting!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Do you know who think all men are rapists? Rapists do.

(Warning: If you couldn't already tell by the title, this post could be very triggering. I'm not censoring it. Stop reading now if you think you can't handle it. And if you think you can, but it triggers you, get help?? Talk to a therapist. Call a friend. Leave a comment here. Just take care of you. Thanks!)

A few days ago, a friend of mine posted this. Very well said.
It also got me thinking.
Especially after looking at all the pictures of myself as a nineteen year old...

I was married to a man who honestly believed he was kind and loving and good to me. He completely believed it when he told me, "No man will treat you as good as I treat you." and, "No one will be able to love you like I love you." and even, "No one will be as kind to you with sex as I am. You sure are lucky you have me and not someone else."

These things from the man that was violent during "sex" on day one. I spent my wedding night sobbing in the bathroom while he ranted and raved about how stupid and selfish I was:
"A man NEEDED sex, and I was his WIFE."
And when I came back to bed, because I didn't have anywhere else to go, he did it again.
These things from the man that also buried my face with a pillow during "sex". These things from a man who told me it was my fault he had to get violent, if I would just give him what he wanted, he wouldn't have to take it. These things from a man who threatened my (then twelve year old) sister because I was crying. These things from a man that also made disparaging remarks about my body. My body was fat, unattractive, vile, and disgusting to him. He was embarrassed for me to be seen in public in a bathing suit. (Might I add, I have never EVER been fat. I've struggled to keep my weight up, not the other way around.) He'd say these things before, during, and after forcing himself on and in me. These things from a man that if I didn't just lay there and let him do what he wanted, he became violent: He got sex when he wanted it and never even ASKED what I wanted, or if I wanted. Not once were my desires, wants, or preferences EVER taken into account. It was always about him. I was nothing abut a possession to gratify him... And he thought I was lucky to have someone as kind as him.

Abusers are known for saying things like what Larry said to me. I used to think they said those things as a means to control... but after reading this blog post and observing other abusers... They don't say those things to control - they honestly believe they are normal. They fully and completely believe that anyone in their situation would do what they are doing. They really do believe they are kind and wonderful and their spouse is lucky to have them. Unfortunately, I believed Larry, so when he said those things he DID control me. I believed I would never find anyone better, so I never left, and I kept right on letting him rape me. Every night. Sometimes more than once a night. For two years.

A quote from "To all those men" 
"A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That’s not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?
Rapists do. 
They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again. Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape."
Rapists believe that all men rape. Only, they don't even think about it that much. They don't see what they are doing is rape. It is the same with all forms of abuse. Abusers believe that anyone in their situation would do what they are doing. They really, truly, honestly think that everyone else thinks and acts the way they do. Some just hide it better. They think hitting their spouse is completely justified. They believe hateful speech is okay, because (fill in the blank here. Some way to blame the other person. Or to justify what they do.) Some even believe they are being helpful.

Prairienymph wrote a blogpost a while ago:  Rapists are not Monsters. Believing that only monsters are rapists, or that you can tell who is a rapist because they are "bad people" just isn't true. I married one. I know. I loved him. He treated most people with kindness; he was incredibly charismatic; everyone else loved him too.

I have long wondered why it couldn’t be like in the movies: Bad guys are ALL bad, and good guys are ALL good. The world would be far less confusing, but it isn't that way.  By trying to classify abusers as "bad" and victims as "good", everyone gets hurt. I knew Larry was not a bad guy, so obviously, he wasn't abusing me. (WRONG!) I knew I wasn't good or perfect, so obviously, I had no room to complain. (WRONG AGAIN!)

There's a lot of emotion inside me as I write this, and I wish I was calmer so I could say it better...
Very few people set out to completely destroy the people they love, AND sometimes, in their fear, jealousy, ignorance, self-righteousness, self-centeredness, or whatever else is going on inside their heads, they still do. And most, keep right on thinking they are "normal", which means they keep on doing and saying things that really hurt the people they "love".

To most people who would rape another person, talking about it will do NO good. They believe everyone is like them, so even if you speak out against rape and abuse, they won't believe you. Deep down they know what you are REALLY thinking, REALLY feeling... and that is one of the things that make rape possible. They convince themselves that they know what the woman really wants, really needs, so even if she is crying and screaming and trying to get away, they won't even notice. They will just keep right on going, and never even see that there is a person in front of them in a lot of pain.

Larry thought he was doing me a favor. Larry thought all men would treat me like he did or worse. Larry thought I would be miserable without him. He was wrong. OH SO VERY WRONG. I am so grateful for that. SO SO SO grateful. I'm so glad that I found the courage to get out (still don't know how I was able to do that), and discover that he didn't know what he thought he knew.

Letting it all go. Right into the trash.

When I moved out of Dann's house, I took almost nothing with me.
It was too hard for me to go through stuff and figure out what to take with me, what to throw away, so I just left everything. A few weeks ago, he brought some of my boxes to me.

Mostly, they were clothes and shoes. Things that no longer fit me, either size-wise or personality-wise. They were easy: Throw them in a box and take them to DI.

my sis and I
There was one box that was all my old journals and pictures: Things I boxed up and hid away, because I didn't know what to do with them. Should I throw the pictures of Larry out? Keep them? Burn them? I LOOK happy, and that bothers me... I also have all the love notes I wrote him, and he wrote me. They confuse me.

(Confusion: I obviously THOUGHT I loved him. I obviously THOUGHT I was happy. So, why the hell do I still have nightmares about him sometimes? And I'm VERY aware that what I thought was loving and normal was NOT. But reading my own words in my own handwriting professing that I love him... It's confusing.)

I just couldn't bring myself to throw them out. Or even look at them. Until today.

Grandpa Dennis

I'm not sure what got into me. I pulled out every picture. Most of them were from our wedding day. I kept the pictures of my friends and cousins. I cried when I saw the pictures of "Grandpa Dennis", my next door neighbor and special friend all growing up. He passed away not too long after that picture was taken. I wanted to keep that one. My wedding day was HELL, but in those pictures I also saw myself surrounded by people who loved me. They were there to support me. I want to remember that. I want to remember my grandma making my dress, and my other grandma doing the wedding cake. I want to remember having my aunts and sister do my hair and makeup. I want to remember what my brothers looked like in tuxes. (although, I'll be honest, I didn't remember until I looked at the pictures.) I want to remember how wishy-washy I was picking out colors and dresses. I just didn't care, but there were a lot of people that made it beautiful. (Sorry to my bridesmaids. I wouldn't put you in those dresses again.) I want to remember so many of the people I loved coming together to celebrate. Even if the celebration (for me) ended as soon as we left the reception. Jerk.
My grandma made my dress. She's kind of amazing.

I threw away the pictures of Larry and I. I threw away the pictures of his parents, his sister, his friends, his cousins. I threw away the pictures that I didn't want to remember. I threw away the pictures we took of our honeymoon. Seeing those were the hardest. Why is that girl smiling? Why does she have her arm around him? Why didn't she punch him in his big nose and leave?

And now, I just want to cry. Cry for the nineteen year old girl who didn't know what was going to happen to her next, cry for the girl that thought the way he treated her was good, and kind, and normal...

Just cry. And maybe get a little angry.
(Possible angry posts to follow.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No more hiding: I exist.

A few days ago, listening to Everyday Joy. There was a discussion about old patterns... The question was, "When things get stressful or hard, what do you do?"

Le mentioned that she hides. When she was a little girl, she would hide under the bed so she wouldn't get hurt. I do that too. I hide. As a child, that looked like curling up in a ball in my closet. As an adult, it looks like pretending I am someone that I am not. Hiding my thoughts, wants, desires, and opinions. In some instances, even hiding the fact that I exist.

I wrote the following at the end of November:
"About a month ago, a friend of mine posted a quote from some politician about how gays and lesbians don't exist. Above her link, she just put the words, "I exist." I saw that (I didn't even read the link), and cried. Deep tears. There was just something about her words, "I exist," that moved me.

Not too long after that, BJ came to me and apologized. After a conversation with his kids, he realized he didn't talk about me. He told stories of riding or fishing, and just wouldn't mention I was there. He apologized. Said he wanted his kids to know him. He loves me, and he wants them to know and understand that. He said he was grateful for his friendship with me, and if he can't share what he is grateful for, how will they ever know him? And he wanted to respect our friendship enough to tell people he valued it. I was upset. NOT because he didn't talk about me, but because he apologized. My reply to him, "I don't need you to talk about me. I know that my mere existence is upsetting to them, so you don't have to remind them." (He reminded me this isn't about me, it's about him and wanting his kids to know him and being authentic... but that isn't what this entry is about.)

A few days ago, I posted a link to an article about asexuality. This quote started my tears:
“When I started using the word asexual in the LGBT community, most people didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. There were unintentional hurtful comments made. My favorite response? “’Oh, that doesn’t exist.’ No one wants to be told they don’t exist.”
I have "body memory" pain that won't go away. It hurts ALL the time. Talking with doctors, they've said there is possible nerve damage. Repeated rape can do that apparently. I've never had it checked out. At this point, it wouldn't be worth the craziness that would come from an exam. And mostly, I am pretty certain the pain is somatic.

Last Christmas, my brother bought me the book Eastern Body, Western Mind. I haven't read any of it. I got enough other books, and I put it on my bookshelf and haven't thought much about it since then. BJ has had a headache for weeks. In an effort to be helpful, I picked up the book to see if it could give me any suggestions.

I opened to the page titled "body armor". It showed several different body postures and shapes. First one I noticed was BJ. I read what it said about a person with that posture. (Stuck in Chakra 3). And what it said about where he was stuck. He said it nailed him. I don't know how that helps his headache, because I got distracted.

I saw the body posture that was me.
"People with this structure are highly creative and intelligent with upper chakras that are overdeveloped. Their issues center around the right to exist."
And I sobbed again. That word, "Exist".
I went on to read:
"Without the right to be here, few other rights can be reclaimed. Do we have the right to take up space? Do we have the right to establish individuality? Do we have the right to take care of ourselves? The right to be here is the foundation of our survival and security. A corollary to this right is the right to have, especially to have what we need to survive."
I've been kind of anxious and upset ever since then. Overdeveloped upper chakras? I don't know. But I do remember being told that my constant dizziness had something to do with overdeveloped and underdeveloped chakras...and those chakra bowls dang near killed me... I also have worked so hard to change beliefs and thoughts and patterns, but that blasted body memory pain won't go away... Guess where the the first chakra is?? Just guess.

 Over and over, if I have to choose between what I want and what someone else wants, I will choose someone else. Over and over I have tried to hide who I am, what I want, what I feel, even the fact that I exist... And I can't live like that."
I kept trying to post it, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I felt so much anxiety at just posting the words, "I exist", so I never did it.

After Everyday Joy today, I sat in my chair...thinking... I had just written the post "I'll be the violin in the back row with a HUGE smile on my face." There was a time, I would have shared that with the Everyday Joy group on facebook, but I didn't want to. I hadn't posted anything in the group since facebook had changed things. Now, when I post to the group, it shows up in my friends' news feeds, and I didn't want to be seen. I was scared.

I thought about what Joy (Jen) had said... Hiding. On more than one occasion she has said, "Maybe it's time to show up in your own life." So I did.

I shared my joyful post with the group, and what I was afraid of happening, happened... sort of.
People did see it, click on the link, and have read some of my blog. No one has chased me down with a pitchfork. One friend sent me a message thanking me for what I'd written. Two of my aunts called to chat and to tell me they loved me, and they just want me to be happy. One aunt said she supported me leaving the church, but feels sad for all the people who will never hear my wisdom. The other told me she thought I was amazing. Another friend apologized that she had had no idea.

I'm feeling a little raw and vulnerable, and once again, it has been shown to me that I don't need to hide. Yes, there are people who don't like me, who disagree with me, hate me, and they wish I would disappear, go away, maybe even stop existing... but there are far more loving, kind, and wonderful people out there.

Still... this isn't even about other people. This is about me. Standing up and saying, I exist. I'm here. I don't have to hide, and I'm not going to. I'm not going to pretend. I'm not going to wear a mask. I'm here. I'm me. Exactly where and who I want to be.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"I'll be the violin in the back row with a HUGE smile on my face."

I'm in the community orchestra here. I've been a part of it for a little over a year now. It still amazes me how much I LOVE it.

I love practicing. I love playing my part, and hearing that just me alone isn't very musical. And then I love joining with all of the other instruments, and it sounds like music!
I love the focus it takes for each of us to create each piece.
I love variety of music that can be created with so many of us working together: Yesterday's concert was Christmas themed. We played an arrangement of Joy to the World that just made my heart sing. There was also a selection from the Nutcracker ballet, complete with a few dancers. (I'm still bummed that I never got to see them dance... I just wanted to put the violin down for a bit and watch, but I also wanted to play.)
In the past, I've played with the band Kansas. Whenever I hear the song, Dust in the Wind, I get happy remembering the day I spent with Danny, the violinist... And how hard we all worked. And the sunset. And the rain during an outdoor concert.
We've played songs from movie soundtracks. I think those are some of my favorite. I love the story that music can tell. When I hear "Pirates of the Caribbean", I KNOW it's telling stories of pirates and open seas and battles. 
I've played Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Back, Berlioz, and many other great and amazing composers.
The video is of a rehearsal last year. Tchaikovsky. THAT was a fun piece to play!!
Really - I'm just sharing it with you, because I wanted to put something here... and I couldn't find the pictures of me playing the violin. AND I loved the end where the conductor is singing our parts. 

I started playing with an orchestra when I was eight, but I remember the first time I felt a part of an orchestra. I was in 7th grade. We were playing (a simplified version of the) Overture from Carmen. I heard my violin sing. I heard the other instruments all coming together. That was the feeling I wanted when I started playing with the community orchestra.

It's even better now. Take away the need to play perfectly. Take away the grades and the competition for who can be the best. Put in a group of people who are ALL there because they want to be. Because this is fun. It just feels amazing!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To my family: Thank you for making me SO wrong.

Sometimes I get a glimpse of what it must have been like to be my friend a few years ago...
I forced myself to go to church. It made me crazy. I was a mess of anxiety leading up to it, and then a slightly different kind of mess after it. BJ would ask me every single week, "Why do you do this to yourself? You don't have to go. Just stop. It's hurting you, so stop."

My reply was always, "I HAVE to. What will people think of me? It will hurt my family if I don't go. It would be better that I was dead than to not be what they want me to be," and I'd keep on doing what I thought everyone else wanted me to do. He never told me not to. I know it killed him to watch me constantly putting myself in that situation, but he let me find my own way.

In the meantime, I kept finding evidence that I was right: My family would disown me if I didn't do what they wanted. They never came right out and said, "If you are honest about who you are, it will hurt us," but I believed it. I can only imagine how it would have messed me up if they had said it. I couldn't handle the thought of hurting them or making them unhappy, so I'd keep trying to please everyone else, while slowly killing myself. I made myself crazy trying to live the life everyone else wanted me to live.

And then one day, I got it. I made the decision that I was not going to let fear or guilt run my life. People that tried to use fear or guilt to manipulate me were just gone. I didn't talk to them anymore. If a situation felt manipulative, I walked out. I got it.

I stopped going to church. I got honest. I told my family and some friends how I really feel, and who I want to be, and who I am deep down inside. It didn't create the hell I thought it would - in fact exactly the opposite happened.

I found REAL relationships. REAL love. My family is amazing.
I have had some friends call me to repentance and tell me how much I am hurting myself and others by not doing what THEY think I should. Fuck them. I don't need them in my life, because I know what it feels like to have REAL love. (ok. not fuck them. More like... goodbye, I'll miss you. I'm here to be your friend if you ever change.)

I don't know why my family got it. HOW they got it, because I know that many MANY members of the church do NOT get it. They keep right on being manipulative, controlling, emotionally abusive people. They keep right on hurting the ones they "love" in the name of "love". And most of them never see it. They don't even have a clue of the pain they are causing.

I tried to explain this to my parents and sister once. My mom kept telling me that, "I can't imagine saying those kinds of things to someone I love. EVER," She thought she was normal, and the stories of the things people have said (and continue to say) to my friends are odd.

"I'm not that amazing... Most people would have handled things the way I handled things."

No. Mom. They don't.

Here are some of the amazing things my family did that most won't do.

My records are currently in my parents' ward, because they couldn't find me... When the clerk asked my sister why they were there. She told them, honestly, exactly why, "Jen isn't a part of the church, doesn't want to be, and it's just better if her records stay here. She doesn't want them where she is living." I cried when she told me, because that means... She is listening to ME. She doesn't have some preconceived notion of what is best for me, she isn't trying to control me or change me or to get my bishop to get me back to church. She cares about ME enough to hear ME.

I was visiting my parents when their bishopric stopped by.
I was in the kitchen, from the living room my mom shouted, "Oh. HI Bishopric!" It was a message to me, "Jen, the bishopric are here. I know how much these guys could possibly freak you out. Don't know how to handle it other than to just let you know by shouting it out, and emphasizing it awkwardly." I froze in the kitchen, waited a bit, and then I left. As soon as they were gone, my mom called me and we laughed at it all. This doesn't seem like much to my mom, but it is HUGE to anyone that has left the church. Most people don't treat us with that much respect.

(Incidentally, the bishopric were coming because my sister's father-in-law talked to the bishopric to get them to go reactivate his son. My parents are not just awesome when it comes to me... They are also awesome when it comes to their son-in-law. To the bishopric they said, "Actually, this is exactly the problem. His parents can't figure out how to stop being controlling, crazy people, and they keep pulling stunts like this one in order to get him to do what they think he should. If he decides to go back to church, we'll all support him. In the meantime... just let him be.")

My dad and I have had many discussions. We talk openly. He's aware that he can't answer many of my questions, so he doesn't try. We just talk about them... And in the end, he always says, "I love you, and I trust you," and I think he really means it. I FEEL that from him. He has told me he totally supports me not going to church, because he wants me to love ME, and the church just gets in my way. He knows me, and loves me, and it still makes me cry happy tears when I think about it.

My youngest brother posted this on my facebook wall, "So apparently there's a guy that used to work at BYU who is working on a documentary about being gay and Mormon, called "Far Between" It's not out yet, but it seemed like something you'd be interested in." I am aware of the documentary, I even know the man that he is talking about. (I even considered submitting my story of being asexual for it, but I don't think I will.) What amazed me is that he is paying attention to things that interest me. I care deeply about LGBT rights, and he knows it. Again... he may not understand how impressive that is, but I want him to know... That's impressive.

On Thanksgiving, I was nervous about seeing extended family. (As it turns out, I didn't have to be. My dad didn't want me to have to deal with awkward questions... He told my grandparents I've left the church, and told them I was happier. He told them he supported me and my decisions. And he wasn't just saying it, he MEANS it. Do you know how amazing THAT is?) I was trying to get more honest with my extended family, so I talked to my grandma about fishing and riding on Sundays. I talked about my roommate BJ, and she remembered meeting him. He and my grandpa talked about fly-fishing. As I was leaving, my GRANDMA  just said, "You are happy, so you must be doing something right, just keep on being happy."

In the process, before I left, I was not happy. I was miserable. It is hard to face the possibility that I might lose everything if I am true to myself. I questioned whether it was really worth it. If I had known the kind of people that I have surrounding me, I wouldn't have had to question. Unfortunately, in the process of leaving, you don't know the kind of people you have in your life until you've stepped out and been honest, and then they show you. You have to face the fear of losing them before you can make the choice that might make them leave you.

As I've shared my life with my brothers, I've been surprised to hear them say, "I just want you to be happy," and they mean it.

I believed for so long that when people told me they "just wanted me to be happy" what they really meant was, "I want you to be happy as long as you do it my way." There ARE a lot of people like that in this world. The church can create that idea. (There is only ONE TRUE way to happiness, so if you aren't doing what *I* think you should be doing, you're not happy... even if you think you are. I just want you to be happy, so do what I tell you to do, and if that doesn't make you happy, then repent.)

These are just a few examples... I have stories like these happen all the time. It is more than just what they do, it is who they are and how they treat me ALL the time. (Hard to explain, but I'll try.) My parents actually mean what they say. They really do love me and trust me. I know the way my extended family is treating me is directly related to the wonderful way my parents are treating me. Their love and respect is making all of the difference in the world. I couldn't make them do that. I didn't get to choose their reaction, but if I DID get to choose, it would have been exactly like this.

I suppose what I want to say is, "Thank you."
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for not getting caught up in the stories. Thank you for trusting me to live my own life. Thank you for not trying to change me. Thank you for accepting me. Thank you. Sometimes, I'm still afraid of what you'll think of me, and I'm still afraid you won't love me... and yet, you have never left me. Thank you. Thank you for wanting ME in your lives. Thank you for not expecting me to continue to wear the mask or pretend in any way. Thank you for listening when I hurt. Thank you for being there with me through my confusion, and thank you for not thinking you know the way my confusion should be resolved. Because of you, my angry phase was much MUCH shorter than it could have been. I didn't have to get really angry to get out. I could leave (somewhat) quietly. I didn't have to fight against you in order to live my life. I thought I would. I was geared up for a big battle. I was geared up to lose everything. Thank you for making me SO wrong.

I love you. I am so grateful for you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I love this horse.

I was feeling SO anxious. Nothing was calming me down.
"I think your horse needs you to go out and brush him. Ride him around the pasture bareback for a while."

And within seconds of BJ's suggestion, I had my boots on and was out the door. A few minutes later, he brought me a coat (I was freezing, but hadn't even noticed!)and took my picture.

Aaaaaah. I feel so much better.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Alligator Jaws

I woke up this morning feeling, "Less than."

Less than what?

Lunch with Dann, talking about it, he said,
"You feel 'less than' when you are trying to run from or avoid a problem. Its like the alligator jaws."
The what?
"You know, in math, the greater than/less than signs. The alligator jaws. When you face them... you are greater than. When you are trying to run away from them or hide from them, you are less than."
i < (i'm hiding from the alligator)
i > (i'm facing the alligator, and i'm going to win!)

...He's actually really smart, now, WHAT AM I TRYING TO AVOID? (Just kidding. I know what I'm trying to avoid. You'll all read about it soon enough.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Just the way you are

This is me being lighthearted. Reminding myself of the beautiful world that I live in. The next post (if I actually finish it) is a heavy one for me. But this one... I love sign language. And I love this song. Enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

No such thing as worthy

A few weeks ago, I was struggling. I talked to my amazing friend, Jen. We went through some visualization, and the picture that kept looming before me was the temple. I was frustrated. I kept trying to figure out why I would feel like I needed that in my life, but I also hate it. I was miserable there. I made life miserable for everyone else whenever I had to go there. (And by "had to" I mean I forced myself to go.)

With her help, I found the word, "worthy". The temples means I am worthy. I am worth it.

When I was 17, and only barely alive, my mom had a dream. She saw me in the temple in a wedding dress, and she knew everything was going to be okay. When I was 19, and getting married in the temple, she reminded me of her dream. She was so happy that I had finally "made it".

Before I got married, I knew that's what people around me felt. I KNEW that if I just made it to the temple, all of their heartache, their money, their time, their prayers would be worth it. *I* would be worth it.

Jen said something perfect: "It sounds to me like all of those old beliefs are DESPERATE for you to let go of them, so why are you still holding on so tightly?"

Well, fuck. I don't know.
Because I wanted to be worth it. I wanted to be loved. Being in a place I love. In the relationships I love. Feeling happy and fulfilled and GOOD, those things just aren't "good enough" if I'm not worthy.

Since that conversation, and even IN that conversation, I let go of that old belief. I am not worthy, because I go to the temple. I am worthy, because I am me. I am not worthy because I am in a marriage, or because my life looks like it "should" to anyone else... I am good. No because needed.

Back in my own truth, in the reality that there is no such thing as "worthy", I find the world to be a beautiful place. I see the perfection that is every friendship I have in my life. I see the perfection that is every situation in my life. I see the joy that is to be found in every second.

I was reminded of what it is like to live in the other world again yesterday.
I was talking to a friend. He REALLY wants to be married. He made the comment, "Why is it so hard? Why can't two people just say, 'I like you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.' I just want to move on with my life."

It sounded so familiar.
But not the way I live my life now.
Trying to find someone to "share the rest of my life with" is HARD. Trying to find a friend to talk to today; Who enjoys spending time together; Who loves me: That's easy. I have a lot of friendships like that. I have a lot of friendships that are absolutely perfect. But I wouldn't have even SEEN these amazing and perfect friendships back when I had only one goal:

If marriage is the only way to "move on with my life", then I can't appreciate the perfection that IS right now. I am feeling grateful for the things I've learned in the past few years. I'm feeling grateful that I no longer feel that pressure.

I feel grateful for all that is today.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Asexual Awareness Week

I'm not tied to the label asexual. However, I am very much tied to the idea that every single one of us has the right to define who we are, who we want to be, how we want each of our relationships to look like. I don't believe I have the right to tell another adult how to live their lives, and I also believe no one else has the right to tell me how to live my life.

I haven't found another label that fits better than asexual as a sexual orientation.
Sexual Orientation isn't about what you do, it's about what you want. Gay men get married to women and have sex, but that doesn't change their orientation... ummm... unless it does... unless they start WANTING to have sex with women. I don't know if that ever happens. It probably does... to some... whatever.

Last week was Asexual Awareness Week. I didn't know. If I had, I would have written about it last week. I just read this blog post today, and it made me cry. It felt so validating. I felt understood. Not alone.

Asexual does NOT equal broken. It doesn't mean I'm disordered, crazy, or that I need to "fix" anything about myself. It means I don't want to have sex. And the only reason me not wanting to have sex is a problem is if someone else wants me to have sex with them... and if someone else wants me to have sex EVEN WHEN I DON'T, that's a problem. (ok... they can want it all day long... it's when they expect me to do something about their wanting it that would be a problem.)

I really appreciated this quote:
“It’s long past time to redefine intimacy,” Brooks argues. “The word ‘intimacy’ conjures up a candle-lit room and a steamy sex scene, but I believe this definition limits greatly our intimate capacity as humans. In fact, I reject entirely the idea that intimacy should be synonymous with sex. Intimacy is tied to a much deeper set of emotions that guide every part of our lives. Intimacy feeds our humanity by connecting us with the people around us. It is the foundation for empathy, compassion, and love. Sex is one way of expressing intimacy — but intimacy should not be summed up as sex and sexual acts.”
Anyway, just check it out?? You might learn something you never knew you wanted to know.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cowboy Church

I've spent the last few days at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This is my third year going... The first year, I spent just a few minutes. I went to the Mustang Makeover Competition, and then wandered over to the end of the gathering... I didn't see much, but I was intrigued.

Last year, I went and spent a little more time. I talked to the fiddler from Prickly Pair, and he encouraged me to never put the violin in the case. "If you just leave it out, you'll pay a ton more." I followed that advice, and he's right. I pick it up when I have just a few minutes and I play around. When it's in the case, I don't take the time to get it out...
(This is Prickly Pair playing my favorite song. I LOVE the fiddle part, and the words are awesome too.)

Over the past year, I found myself looking forward to November... Just because of this event. (Generally speaking, I HATE November. I don't know why, but if I ever fall apart, it has been in November. And then it has taken me six months to put myself back together. To find myself looking forward to November felt very strange.)

It's hard to describe how much I enjoy the gathering. Listening to the poems, stories and music, I feel like... I feel... the way other people describe how they feel going to church. Uplifted. Happy. Like I belong. A part of something. Touched. Loved. Inspired.

It was amazing to me how people could tell stories of losing loved ones, and bring tears to my eyes, and the next story is titled, "I don't look good in a speedo anymore." and I was rolling on the floor laughing.

I love watching fiddles. I play the violin, and have for many years, but my passion, my DREAM is to play the fiddle. After watching all of the amazing musicians this weekend, I have been inspired. I pulled out my book of "How to learn to play double stops" again, and I WILL learn. (Double stops is when you play two notes at the same time on the violin. Pretty important in fiddling.) I don't know what it is about the violin and fiddling... I have been in love with the violin since I was only three. (I don't remember it, but my mom has told me stories of going to hear a violinist, and then begging her for a violin until I was eight. I played in my first orchestra when I was in second grade.)

I love the lyrics to the songs, and the subject of the stories. People talk of their love for horses, land, and nature. They speak of God in terms of the beauty around them. They understand what it's like to love a horse and to have been saved by a horse. I don't have to try to describe how I feel watching Sunny just walk around the pasture, because they already know.

Everyone just seems comfortable as themselves. Some people get all decked out in their shiny boots and beaver hats. I go in my riding boots. The ones that are dirty and scuffed and well-used. Everyone just wears what they want to wear, and it feels good to be around that. I like being around people who are comfortable with themselves.

I enjoyed the "Impact of the Horse" competition. Trainers working with their horses, then showing off the relationship they have. I have worked with Sunny - we're a great partnership out on the trail, but seeing what people and their horses can do together amazes me. Every year, I have left the competition wanting to learn how to work with a Mustang, because I SO want to do that someday.

I loved watching BJ talk with the harmonica player, Gary, and getting personal instruction. Here's Gary playing. He's just awesome to watch. (This song doesn't show off his harmonica much, but I do love the words...)

At the end of the show Saturday night, I loved that the crowd was smaller... I was sitting close to the stage, and Nancy (of Katy Creek) said something to me from stage during the sound checks. After they were done performing, she came to find me.

"You have a twinkle in your eye. Like you know more than the rest of us.... You're just a bit ahead. Like you know the punchline before I tell the joke, or the end to every story. There's just something amazing about you - I hope I get to see you more soon."

I cried. Happy tears. I would have loved to talk more, but she was rushing off to her next show. She gave me her email address, and said to keep in touch. I wonder what HER story is. How amazing she is that she took the time to find me and tell me what she saw.

(Here's Kate Creek. It's old. They have a fiddler playing with them now, but it's the best video I could find.)

There were also a ton of awesome vendors. My favorites were the artists. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, wood carvings... I found myself wanting to be a millionaire. I would fill my world with all of those beautiful pieces.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I did it!

There has only been one assignment from therapy that I didn't do. I tried. I went to the massage therapy school on more than one occasion... But I never could go through with it. (I couldn't even go to the place with the CHAIR massagers because it freaked me out so much way back then.)

I did it today. I got a massage.
I went to a professional place - not the school, because I wanted someone who had been doing it for a while who wouldn't freak out if I did. That cost me more money, but I decided it was worth it for a good therapy session.

Trent was awesome. A DUDE. A GUY gave me a massage.
I wore a tanktop and shorts, because that's what *I* was comfortable with.
He asked what I wanted, and at first I was going to say, "Deep tissue". I stopped myself, and instead said, "I have PTSD from sexual trauma." (Deep tissue would have been easier for me to handle - the more painful the better... But it wouldn't have brought the same healing as what happened next.)

He nodded and said, "I know exactly what to do."
He made sure I knew to let him know if at any moment I was overwhelmed, and we'd stop immediately.
He put his hands on my back. I started to cry and shake. He just kept his hands in the same spot until my physical reaction passed. No more shaking or crying. Then he moved to the next spot and we started all over.

There were a few spots that brought very specific memories/thoughts.
One, "Why can't he just love me?" and then after a few seconds, "He does." (don't ask me who he is, I don't know.)
Another, "Please don't hurt me." and then, "I won't." (again I don't know who I is, but I don't need to know.)
There were specific memories that seemed to pass through me in the same easeful way.
I also had the thought at one point, "I can't wait to tell Paul (my old therapist)! He'll be so excited." 

It surprised me that my most strong reactions came when he touched my feet. Feet? Why? I don't know. But he did the same thing there as everywhere else.

He ended by massaging my head and neck a bit.
It was not a pleasurable experience, and at the same time... It was perfect. Exactly what I needed.
I'm glad I didn't push myself to go earlier, because by letting myself be ready, it went so much better. If I had forced myself, or white knuckled through it, it just couldn't have been this awesome.