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.