Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just stuff that makes me happy

I'm feeling super grateful to be alive today. Here are a few of the things that I'm super grateful for:

Justin was in The Secret Garden, which is one of my FAVORITE musicals. He did an awesome job, and of course, I cried.

I would have loved to record HIS play, but I didn't... So here's my favorite song from the musical.

The lyrics of this whole song speak to me. For a long time it was, "What you have to do is finish what you have begun. I don't know just how, but it's not over 'til you've won," but lately it's been, "When you see a man who's raging, and he's jealous. He fears you've walked through walls he's hid behind for years. What you do then is you tell yourself to wait it out, you say "Its this day, not me, thats bound to go away"

I bought myself some new waders. (The ones I bought two years ago have holes. I spent a bit more money on the new ones.) Summer's coming. The weather is gorgeous. The fish and the mountains and the streams are ALL calling my name.

It's spring!!! There are a ton of trails that I haven't been on yet. Life is just better when I can get out riding.

And this song too:

(I love the video of this girl with her horse, but I was really just looking for the song in a format I could share with all ya'll.)
These lyrics are my favorite:
"And away she rides
To the great beyond
You can wave goodbye
To a girl and her horse with a bond
You can't deny"

Oh yeah, and a new hat. And yes, in case you were wondering, sometimes I wear the hat around the house while I'm still in my pajamas, because I like it that much.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

who you are is more magnificent than any illusion of you could ever be

I was talking to a friend this morning. He is gay. His mother sent him a letter... It sounded like a lot of the things religious people say to manipulate... Because they think they are right, they don't even see how horrible it is. (It goes like this: God said the church is true. God wants you to be happy. God has told me what you need to do to be happy. Do what I tell you to do (and what God tells me to tell you to do), and  even if you're not happy, at least you won't be hurting me.)

Heartbroken, he asked what he should do. Other friends gave him the advice, "Just be you. Show them that you are still the same person."

Its good advice, and there's a few problems with it.
He's still the same person, but in their minds, he's not. He's gay. He's left the church. It's like they have always had an illusion of who he is (in their own minds). For a while, he fit the illusion. That made them happy. Now he doesn't. It hurts them that he is different than the dream of him they hold in their heads. He can't be the illusion, and at this point, it seems they don't want him. They want the illusion or nothing. They'd rather have him lie and pretend that he is someone else than to really know HIM.

The other problem with trying to show them he hasn't changed, is that he can't actually control the way they think about him. Trying to do that will make him crazy... At least, it made me crazy.

I eventually learned that all I could do was be me, and be honest, and other people were going to take that however they wanted. 

I've been called mentally ill, sick, wounded, broken, evil, disgusting, and vile... but the very same behaviors that got the above labels thrown at me also got me labeled as: beautiful, strong, compassionate, amazing, heroic, and courageous.

It turns out all of the "good" things about me are just subjective. Some people love me, some people don't. There's something very empowering about giving up the need to make other people like me, or think good things about me, or want to be in my life. I'm me, and all of the people in my life are here because they like ME. 

I got lucky though... My family didn't send me the awful letters. I had a few discussions where my mom told me she loved me, and I countered her with, "How could you? You don't even know me! I don't believe you even WANT to know me."

She asked me to give her a chance. I did. It's worked out for me. I had gotten to the point that I was willing to give up my family completely... If they had said, "I want the illusion or nothing," it would have been nothing. I would have found friends to be my family. It was too important to me to stop hiding and stop pretending to ever allow myself to be an illusion again.

So, my advice is a bit different.
Just be you. Know that you are beautiful and wonderful, and you deserve to be loved. Even if they don't love you and accept you, that doesn't change the fact that you deserve to be loved.

You deserve to be loved for who you are, because who you are is more magnificent than any illusion of you could ever be. You ARE loved. By me. And probably by a bunch of other people too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How I came to support marriage equality... again.

When I was twelve years old, I came home from church and demanded to know why the prophets would tell people not to marry someone who had a different skin color. My dad tried to explain that marriage was hard enough without mixing cultures... I countered by pointing out that black skin doesn't equal different culture. I used the example of the only black family I knew. He was from Chicago. She was from Jamaica. Their kids all grew up in Utah. I had far more in common with their kids than they had with each other. (You can't get much more different than the streets of Chicago vs. Jamaica.)Yet it was okay for them to marry each other? Why??

We talked about the priesthood. There was a time when my dad would have felt concerned about his daughter marrying a black man, because he would want her to have the priesthood in her home. That policy had changed years before... so I asked again, Why? Why are they still teaching that?

By the end of the conversation, I informed my parents that the prophets and my teachers at church had it wrong. I was going to marry a black man, because there was no reason I shouldn't. (I vaguely remember the discussion taking a turn to "Just because there is no reason you shouldn't, doesn't mean that you should," but that wasn't the point. I wanted to find a way to let people know the teachings on interracial marriage were wrong. I couldn't think of any other way to get my point across.)

Over the next couple of years, I had several discussions on similar subjects. I felt frustrated and confused:

Why are all the pictures of Christ so white, when he was from Israel? Why aren't they more accurate in his depictions? Why do they teach that dark skin is akin to sin? Why did the YW leaders insist that my black friend wear a white glove when she played God's finger in the skit of "the brother of Jared"? (It took a long time for me to calm down on that one.)

I thought it was stupid that black people would be made white when they die and were "perfected"... Why would they want that? I would want to still be ME, so I assumed they would want to still be themselves.

Why did it take so long for blacks to get the priesthood? Why was the church so far BEHIND the rest of the country? Why didn't God tell his prophets that bigotry and prejudice were wrong? Why weren't the prophets leading the way on such an important issue?

No one had any real answers for me...As I got older, I was okay with not getting answers because (for the most part) things were different. I hated the teachings on the "seed of Cain", but that was talked about rarely enough, I could forget.

In 2008, the church became involved in Prop 8. In the beginning, I believed that allowing gay people to get married was wrong. Homosexual behavior was a sin. As I saw all of my friends posting "Yes on 8" signs on their facebook walls or putting them in their lawns, it felt wrong. It isn't okay for the majority to legislate the rights of the minority. It felt wrong that a church that teaches agency as the most important principle was helping to create laws that take away agency... and more than just agency... It seemed crazy to me that a people who had been so oppressed would try to create laws to oppress others and take away their rights and freedoms. Early members of the church fled the United States to get away from treatment like that... why wasn't there more compassion now? 

I started listening to the talks... the calls for "morality"... the causes and cures for "unnatural tendencies"... It just didn't sit right.

How could I help but see the similarities between the things I had heard in church as a twelve year old that I KNEW were wrong, and the things I was hearing in church as a thirty year old... I started researching. I started looking at both sides. Part of my research lead me to look at the arguments against interracial marriage... which lead me back in church history. The things the church taught about blacks were actually far worse than anything I had known. Think of all the most prejudiced, bigoted, AWFUL things that were said about or done to black people in this country. The church promoted that bigotry in the name of God. (I'm torn. Part of me wants to share a few of the quotes from Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith, N. Eldon Tanner, Ezra Taft Benson, or Mark E. Petersen. The rest of me has decided not to share them... In 2008, still had these quotes in complete talks. In 2012, I searched all over and couldn't find them. The quotes can still be found on other places on the internet, but I don't like using quotes taken out of context, unless the rest of the context could be found. It frustrates me that they are no longer available on, and I understand it. Why would they keep stuff like that for people to find, now that they don't teach it anymore?)

The church changed. They changed their doctrine, their stance on blacks, and interracial marriage. They caught up with the rest of the country eventually. So... Now... What if they are wrong about homosexuality? What if all the things they have said about homosexuality aren't accurate just like all of the things they taught about blacks were inaccurate? What if they are wrong just like they were wrong about interracial marriage? What if they are wrong just like they were wrong about blacks and the priesthood? What if gay marriage will NOT be the downfall of society just like interracial marriage has not been the downfall of society? What if loving and accepting homosexuals AS homosexuals is the right thing to do just like giving blacks the priesthood and treating them as equals was the right thing to do? What then?

I know there are many people who will change their beliefs if the prophets and church authorities change. I didn't want to wait. I couldn't wait.

Once again, I feel like I did when I was twelve... frustrated... and impatient.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Shut up. I'm fishing here.

A few months ago, I took a bunch of classes on fly fishing.
Casting from Molly and John. Two completely different techniques. Both very accomplished (and award winning) fly fisher people. A few other classes on reading the water, where to go, and what flies to use. All of the classes were informative, and I wanted to apply everything everyone taught me.

Then I got a kidney infection. I didn't feel like going out fishing, so I stayed home and watched videos on how to fish. A whole bunch of different things that 99% of the readers won't care about.

Finally feeling better, I wanted to apply all of my new knowledge, so I went fishing.

It was horrible. NO FUN AT ALL. So many voices in my head telling me how to cast, what to do, keep your elbow in, move your elbow up and down, don't move your elbow, keep your wrist straight, flick your wrist, 10 and 2, but not always...

After about an hour, I gave up, put the fly rod away and sat on the shore of the river. I didn't know WHY it wasn't fun. For a moment, I actually believed it was because I wasn't catching fish, and then  I thought about the moment I fell in love with fly fishing:

Fish on! (At my favorite fishing spot.)
A little hole. We drove two hours on a dirt road to get there. We were the only ones on the whole lake (if you could call it a lake). It was crystal clear. I could see every fish. I could see the natural bugs. I watched how they responded to each other, and how they responded to my fly. It wasn't about catching fish, it was about just BEing. (Although catching fish that day was fun too.) I loved everything about that day, and THAT day, I wasn't concerned about how to fish, or that I caught fish, or anything else.

I tried again. This time, I left all of the things I had learned from all of the classes I had taken on the shore. I told them all to "Shut up! I'm fishing here!" and started casting.

It was fun. AND, my fishing technique grew by leaps and bounds in the next hour or so.
(For anyone who cares, I can now do a double-haul cast. Not very useful on small streams, but very useful on reservoirs or when it's windy.)

Once again, I am reminded that it is VERY helpful to listen to others, to learn from them, to seek out wisdom of those who have done what I want to do, and it is also incredibly important to find my own way. Take in their feedback, and decide what works for ME.

It turns out that stuff I learned in therapy, ALSO works in fly fishing. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Party... Progress... Guilt...

I went to the CALM party a few days ago.
Started with walking in and having several people greet me with a smile and, "Jen! It's soooo good to see you!" For a girl who has felt invisible for so long, that felt good. It felt strange. I've never been hated by anyone (until recently), but I've also never been noticed. I'm aware (now) that by never letting people get to know me, they didn't know me. (Brilliant wisdom, I know.) They didn't care if I was at a party, because there was really nothing to care about.

After greeting me with my name, we exchanged hugs. It wasn't until I was driving home that I realized it hadn't been weird or freaky or upsetting. I really care about these friends, and I wanted to say hi with a hug. I wanted them in my personal space, so it wasn't upsetting to have them there. I also chose how close I let them be... (I've known for a while that as soon as I started accepting my right to choose who I let touch me, and when that I wouldn't have as many issues with touch... but for so long, I've not been able to even make the choice. If they want to hug me, they get to, whether I like it or not. It was different last night.)

A friend from eating disorder treatment, has joined this group of friends. It was very amusing to me to watch how people reacted to her endless need to take care of everyone else. I knew my behavior was odd, but it still surprised me, watching other people watching her... Her apologizing for taking up space, washing a paper cup so as not to be wasteful, trying to move out of everyone's way without them asking, etc. I laughed out loud when I saw Sean shake his head and say, "You don't have to apologize for that, you know that. Right?"

When Stacy noticed me trying to move out of her way, she told me to claim my space. I had a right to it, and then she informed me that if I ever told her to "fuck off" she'd probably clap her hands and hug me.

Why is it that I have had more than one person say that to me in the past two days?

I know the answer to that, because I know how excited I felt when Amanda told me, "I'm going to be me. I'm going to find my own way at my own pace, and if you don't like that, then fuck you." She was scared to death to say it, which I understand, and I did a happy dance for her.

This is going to sound so stupid to some people, but it was a challenge for me: I sat in the big cushy chair. I took up a whole big cushy lazy-boy-type chair while other people sat on folding chairs.

... and now... Stupid, crazy, messed up, guilt... I felt anxiety then, but I feel even more writing about it...

In my head, I hear, "The people who read your blog are going to think you're a really selfish horrible person. Why didn't you just sit in the folding chair and let someone more deserving sit in the big cushy chair? Why would you be proud of that?!?"

And out loud I just said, "Because DAMMIT. I faced a fear of mine. And because, dammit, I deserve a cushy chair as much as anyone! I don't want to go through life feeling like I don't deserve to be comfortable. Fuck that! And fuck anyone who wants me to live like that."

And now I can't remember what else I was going to write about... So, that'll be it for now.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"It's okay for you to sit on the couch too."

I have struggled with trying to take care of, please, or sacrifice for EVERYONE for much of my life. The main focus of therapy was for me to figure out what I want, and to do that. To stop being "indiscriminately self-sacrificing." It hasn't been easy.
At the beginning of my therapy journey, I had a conversation with a friend. She was telling me about her sister's therapy.

She said, "I know my sister is probably a lot happier now... she doesn't feel like she has to do everything everyone asks of her... but I just miss the way she used to be. She did whatever I asked her to do whenever I asked her. I know she's probably healthier now, but I miss the sister that didn't care about herself."

Her words didn't anger me, like they do now, they scared me. I was afraid to start this process of finding what I want. I was so afraid that people would hate me if I stopped being the super self-sacrificing, people pleasing, caretaker that I have tried to be. I was afraid that my sister might say the same thing that my friend said. I'm glad I didn't run away from my fears, and I kept fighting for ME, because a beautiful thing has happened in the past year or so. Because I have expressed and shared my struggles with my family and friends, the way they speak to me has changed dramatically.

They used to applaud me for smiling all the time. For my kindness. For my willingness to serve and sacrifice. They thanked me for doing things that helped others, but hurt me. (They didn't know I was hurting. I never told them.)

It's not that way anymore. I have heard all of these things in the past couple of weeks:

"What do YOU want?"

"I don't want you sacrificing what you want to make me happy, what kind of a friend would want that?"
"Please just take care of you. Stop trying to take care of me or anyone else."
"You're calling because you want to be sure that although you know you need to take care of you, you also feel like you have to make sure that doing so would not adversely affect me or anyone else. Is that really the way you want to live your life?"
"Don't try to make ME happy, that just makes me confused and frustrated."
"You don't have to do that, I just wanted to know if you wanted to."
(after calling my name, and I ran up the stairs) "You don't have to come running just because I call. I just wanted to know where you were."
"It's okay for you to sit on the couch too."
"I love you. I want you to be happy. That's what love is."

They applaud me when I tell them that I want something. (Or laugh at me, which is equally wonderful. My mom recently called me her "perfectly normal goofball daughter", because it turns out I'm totally human, and that's perfectly normal... I just thought I wasn't, which is what makes me a goofball.)
They thank me for telling them 'no', because they want me to be honest.
They don't push me to do anything, and respect my boundaries, even when I struggle to define what those are.

I have almost no one in my life that would expect me to sacrifice myself to make them happy. In fact, sacrificing myself (if they know about it) makes them UNhappy. 

I still care deeply about others. I still struggle to not take care of others, which is apparent, because people are saying the above things to me often. There will come a day when I am adept enough at not trying to anticipate everybody's needs and wants, that I won't need people to say stuff like this to me.

Until then, I'm very grateful for the people who are helping me to find my way.

(Although, actually, maybe I don't want to change that about me completely. Maybe it's just wonderful to have those who love me who are aware of ME, and will help me to take care of me.)