Saturday, March 8, 2014

I despise "sweet"

I have often been accused of being "sweet". I say accused because I have never felt that being called sweet was an actual compliment despite the best intentions and actual meaning the speaker intended to convey. Perhaps the real problem with the word "sweet" is the very meaning the speaker intended.

Being sweet has to do with how I am treating you. Being called sweet means that I am probably being pleasant. It probably means that I am saying and doing nice things for you. It probably means that I am agreeing with you or only half-assing in a very calm and nice voice any points I may disagree about. Being sweet probably means I am listening to you a whole lot more than I am talking. To the person receiving "sweet" action from me it probably feels like we are getting along perfectly. I am probably your best friend. You think to yourself, "Oh my God this person is so supportive and really understands me…"

All of that is probably true. I probably do really understand and know you. I probably am your best friend. I am meeting your needs…

Let me be honest and un-sweet right now. If someone is being sweet to you and that is the first and foremost character trait you are seeing that should be a red-flag that you might NOT actually know that "sweet" person at all. It is NOT your fault oh giver of the compliment, "you are so sweet". It is the sweet persons fault…

To me "sweet" means that I have probably not been brave enough to actually let you in. Being "sweet" means that I have held back my opinion. Being "sweet" means I have conceded ground rather than being brave enough to ask for a compromise or voice what I need.

Being "sweet" just means that I am still struggling with the God-damn "divine [fucking] nature" my early belief system drilled into me. I am still that diabetic attack inducing, sugary smiley blonde haired little girl that is wearing the dress to church her mother made her wear because protesting the dress and not smiling would mean that I was rocking the fucking boat, being unpleasant and disappointing Mom, God, and some future husband I was destined to pledge obedience to before even meeting him…

Sweet means that I have somewhere along the way lost myself. Or the reality of growing in highly patriarchal and god-fearing culture with divinely granted gender roles just means that "I" never got a chance to develop my "self".

I am not really and truly mad at you givers of the compliment "sweet". It is not your fault. You did not know the things that were being held back under that smile. The cringing is more self-disappointment that the small girl in the dress at church has still not been truly freed. I have not opened up the cage door. I did not realize that it was still closed... 

The bottom-line… My last word - "sweet" feels like I am "owned". "Sweet" means fake and dependent and I can't not be crushed under that word anymore... 

Friday, March 7, 2014

I have grown to despise the idea of "Christ-like"

My mission companions often needed me more than I needed them. They often loved me more than I loved them. Part of that is because I really took the call to serve others very seriously. I did not enter into a new companionship with the idea that this was a person… It sounds awful but in many ways each new companion was a duty. My unofficial job on the mission was to fix the broken or weak and get them working again. A transfer or two with me and the depressed and semi-suicidal were out working and knocking doors again…

At the end of my mission when I told my president that I wanted to be a teacher he told me flat out that it was a mistake. He told me I should be a counselor or psychiatrist of some kind. I had a talent for helping others. Even as faithful and fully believing me listened to his words I felt tired. I internalize too much. Other's pain is too easy to make my own. After 18 months of being a "counselor" I was exhausted and weighed down and the thought of a lifetime of other peoples needs was too much. Even believing me quietly nodded and smiled and told my president I would consider it but I had no intention of doing any such thing... 

Duty to serve…  The idea that I should comfort those that stood in need of comforting and strive to discover the needs of others and then to meet those needs was something that I took seriously. Such duty meant that in my efforts to aid those that stood in need I let my own needs go unmet…It was not Christ-like EVER to put myself first. 

Getting a new companion was often a relief. It meant a bit of hope that I might have a companion that was healthy and strong and could pull her own weight. It meant the chance at having an equal companionship. (I had only one companion in my humble opinion that was really and truly as strong as I was and willing to have an equal relationship… )

The way that things look inside the church is that my actions were somewhat valiant and faithful. I was doing my very best to be Christ-like when in reality I had none of the resources or superpowers that the perfect and half-immortal son of God had his disposal…

Now 4 years after leaving the church I have a bit more of an outsiders perspective on most of my mission relationships. My believing mindset put me in a position where I was constantly the strong one or constantly the giving in many of my relationships. I am not talking about just my mission companionships. I look back at most of my friendships and at several familial relationship and it was much the same. I gave and gave and gave. I prayed and prayed and prayed for the other. I put aside my own needs, and often felt tired, overwhelmed and burned out…

I often reached a point where I ignored phone calls when the other called. I quit connecting and reaching out. I cut off contact because the relationships were so unbalanced that I could emotionally or physically give no more…

In those moments where I had nothing left I often resented how one sided so many of relationships felt. 

When I had these moments of need where were the arms that should have been there to wrap around me? Where was the give and take that should be in equal relationships…

I think many Mormon women probably have these moments of need. These moments of quiet exhaustion…

Though I am on the outside now I find myself a bit resentful every time someone calls me sweet or says thanks to me for whatever kindness or listening ear that I have afforded them. Breaking the mindset that you need to be "Christ-like" is hard to abandon.

The words "Christ-like" are no longer really part of my vocabulary but the actions associated with them are still somewhat automatic and I find that my character may be tragically flawed. I find myself struggling to break out of this very giving mindset and even be able to voice to myself what I might need or even more selfish what I might just want. Building equal relationships is something that eludes me even being out and away for so long.  I resent the church for teaching me that my purpose in life was to serve and engraining it in me to such a degree that even with no belief it is hard to not live as though I somehow have to emulate a mythical god who sacrificed himself for others…

I find myself staring at the stains that Mormonism has left all over me and I wonder if there will ever be an end to washing them and scrubbing them out. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I am Spock..

I joke about my Spock like characteristics and INTJ personality and it is a joke that is funny because it is true. It is me. I personify some of the social, emotional and communicative issues embodied by Spock and sometimes worn as badges of pride the INTJ…

These issues have been highlighted in somewhat painful ways lately. I have a hard time building relationships. I have a hard time understanding other people. I really don't understand emotions those of other people or my own (at least not without serious time and reflection).  

Autism runs in my family. My brother is fairly severely autistic. As my cousins have grown up and married there are several of them have children that fall somewhere on the spectrum.

Part of me really dislikes it when people say things like, "I have OCD. I just have to keep the house thing." " I have ADD. I just can't pay attention." It somehow makes light of illnesses that impact real people in real ways. It is not cute or conversational to me.

Despite my dislike for that sort of speech I find myself asking if I am autistic to some degree or another.

At this point I wonder why it would matter after 33 years of life. I have a career. I am stable. Relationships are somewhat hard. I have issues relating to other people. Sometimes I feel that more acutely than other times. Sometimes it is rather painful how difficult it is. Is that a big enough reason to actually go consult an expert? Get diagnosed. What would be the point? Would it just bring up more issues? I have said it before but I should probably be in therapy... 

Even just posting this makes me angry. I don't really know why. 

Random post… I know. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Where have all the unicorns gone? Legal LEGITIMACY is within our grasp.

The ruling from Judge Shelby was something I heard about over my Facebook feed. I did not really understand what it meant until about an hour later when stories of coupled lined up county clerks' offices started filling the feed too. I then spent some time reading up on what Shelby's ruling would mean for gay marriage in Utah and what many predict it will mean nationally.

As my understanding grew and news of happy newlyweds took over Facebook I was ecstatic. Living where I live I have been shocked by how others gay people are not ecstatic. They are not ecstatic. Not that my local gay and lesbians friends don't want gay marriage they seem to be largely uninformed about what is going on.

I stopped to examine myself. Why is this happy-little-gay-exmo so happy and other gay people are not?

1. Was I happy about this because it IS ultimately a gigantic "Fuck you Mormons" and while I am not still particularly angry I am happy that karma came around and crushed the makers of Prop 8 on their home turf?

2. Was I happy because I secretly feel the pull of the mountains and this is a great big pro for someday moving back to Utah?

3. Was I happy because I was making this ruling much bigger than it actually was?

My motives for being happy over this ruling are ultimately many but really EVERY gay person in America should be happy, exciting, and biting their nails with anticipation. Judge Shelby may have paved the way for gay marriage to become legal and binding in ALL states with amendments like Utah's. His ruling ultimately asks for such states to prove how gay marriage is bad and really no one has really come forward with evidence.

I examined again why having this right granted legally was so important to me. I am not in any sort of rush to go out and get married anytime soon. It really comes down to legitimacy. It communicates to me and all out gay people and to the closeted kid that is terrified that there is protection and that we as human beings are protected. This ruling in my mind shows that we are more valid than the messed up antiquated ideas quoted from dusty book that the very quoters who shout have never actually read. I as a living breathing human being am more important than the ideas and condemnations that some "prophet" randomly plays on repeat because it is more convenient than telling their followers "ahem, new revelation all".

Legitimacy. I hope to live in a world where I and those that follow never have to fear or play games with their pronouns because they don't want to get beat-up, killed, or fired from their jobs. I aspire to churches that expand their stakes and make room so that no one has to feel alone, separated from their family by dogma, or fear rejections based on who they love.

I am a little sad. Why are the gays not rejoicing?! Why are the fucking rainbow flags not waving?! Why are we a generation of uninformed?! The idea that this is the civil rights movement of this generation is not just an edgy headline or a trendy ideal. Why are there not more standing up or at least smiling with me?

Judge Shelby thank you. I want your address. You are my hero.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I love Christmas

This has been a weird holiday season for me. I decided pretty early on not to go home. It is not a decision I put a lot of time or thought into. I looked at tickets and briefly thought about it and said to myself, "let's see what ticket prices look like next week". When I checked again prices had already gone up and I just said,  "eh no". After that I just did not analyze it that much. I went about my life. I went about making my holiday plans. I went about shopping. My girlfriend was ecstatic that I would be here with her. I started to get excited. At some point I noted that I was excited for the holiday… I was excited about Christmas for maybe the first time since being a kid.

As a Mormon I did not really love life… I did not really get excited about anything. I did not really love holidays… Christmas and Thanksgiving to me in my very TBMy mind were just chances to put an exclamation mark on my GUILT! and another chance to highlight how I could be more grateful or how I should think about and emulate Christ more. How had I failed to repent this last year? How many ways should I resolve to do better next year… Ugh.

In the years since leaving the church holidays have not been great either. They have been riddled with anxiety and stress of what family interactions would be like. Should I be me or should I just be passive aggressive and not talk about anything real, sincere, or authentic. Two years ago the stress was so bad that though I did not really have plans or anywhere to go I totally opted to stay home, drink vodka, and play video games by myself for Christmas. Yep.

This year I have really laid the Mormon mindset aside. Constantly worrying about being better has not been a major driving mindset for awhile and to one degree or another I have also left family anxiety behind.

This year I quit being the dutiful daughter. After confrontations and both sides drawing so many lines in the sand there was no way for someone not to be mad I just stopped. I called home when I wanted to which meant calling home once or twice a month for a few minutes. I went home during the summer for about two weeks and then drove back to Louisiana. I found myself committing more and more to the idea that I really could just stay here in Louisiana forever if I wanted to. I found myself accept the idea that they might never really embrace me as I am. 

Phone calls home have started to change. I am nice, I am sincere, I express the love for them that I do really and truly have but I don't engage in any sort of confrontation. I don't raise my voice. I quit going out of my way to go to them and started letting them sort of come to me. I listened to the boundaries they laid down about who would and wouldn't be welcome in their home. I listened to the threats guidelines/rules they set about what they would welcome. While I think those things were said to pull me back to them... If they withheld their love or showed me tough love I would come running back?! They are getting used to the idea that I am instead respecting their boundaries and staying away. If Aly can't come and is not welcomed without a long list of rules then I'm not coming either unless I feel like it. 

After the first few months of me calling home very infrequently the phone finally started working both ways and they started calling me once in awhile. Phone conversations became more pleasant. They started at least asking how Aly was doing and what she was up to. I stopped censoring my life and sharing openly what was going on. What we were doing with Aly's family. What our holiday plans were. My family is making small small small steps forward. Their hearts are beginning to soften just the tiniest bit. 

When I got off of the phone with my mom a few minutes ago and she was sad that I was not home for Christmas and I was a little sad too I told I loved her and let myself feel a glimmer of hope when she told us to drive safe on our trip to Aly's mom's house today. I find that I am grateful for Aly's family who were perhaps not overjoyed that both of their daughters were gay but that they are making faster progress than my family. I talk about her family a lot so that my mom hears how other parents accept her gay child into their homes… I think though they have never met Aly's family is providing mine with good examples of truly kind and loving behavior. These non-church attending Christians are showing the Mormons up… Though it looks like the Mormons are now going to be faced with making choices of their own with gay marriage coming to my home-state.

There are still some uphill miles to trudge with my family. I think they are making slow and begrudged progress.  I will gladly accept the small efforts my family is making. They are going to have to come to me though at this point. I won't "shove [my] 'lifestyle'" down their throats... Judge Shelby did that for me this week! (I need to send Judge Shelby a big New Year's present.) 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ding-dong the Mormon's gone... End of year reflections

My last post was in August. The drama of the moment was my new Mormon assistant. I posted that I was optimistic. I thought things were going to work out ok. That was far from the truth.

She started stalking me online. I pulled my blog down. I changed my last name on Facebook. I locked down my internet identity as much as possible.

True to her Mormony Mormon TBM beliefs she started accusing me of awful things. All the things that you would expect a super orthodox Mormon to say about a gay person along with some things that were just ridiculous.

"Your skirt is two inches above your knee that is inappropriate." I just about retorted back that her skin tight clothes that showed every bulge and bump were more offensive than a little knee action. Instead I just kindly pointed out in our school handbook where it stated explicitly that skirts and dresses could be two inches above the knee…

"You are teaching them math that is too difficult." Oh no… I expect the kids to learn difficult material… Damn my high expectations! Geez. Fire me now. 10 + 10 is way too hard for a first grader!

Those are her rated G accusations. She had a notebook filled with things that she wrote down against me but really just turned around to look bad on her.  Lucky for me my school is a liberal oasis in the desert of the religious and very conservative south…  She was asked to prove the ridiculous things she was saying and could not.

She is gone. At this point I don't really care if she reads the blog. I would hope after so many months though that she would have moved on with her life. I have.

I have missed blogging though. It is so cathartic. So here I am. In need of some reflection.  
I find myself reflecting on where I was at two years ago at this time.

I was still single.

I was still grappling with the church and my newfound lack of belief.

I was still agnostic.  

Family and friends were still actively confronting me on leaving the church.

I was happy but I was a lonely.

I felt that the next step was really to start dating seriously. To quit letting fear hold me back from connection and intimacy.

Where I am at now.

1. The two years since December of 2011 I have found that my thirst for all things Mormony has pretty much been sated. When I do interact on various forums now my posts are few and far between and are rarely full of that angsty, and looking-at-the-world-for-the-first-time tone. My posts are usually replies to questions about what cocktails are good for newly non-believing Mormons to try. Or snotty retorts back to apologists about YES it is appropriate for people who leave the church to be angry.

2. Lots of relationship have pretty much disappeared now. There is just no common ground anymore.

3. I am pretty much a full blown atheist now. I had a conversation in with my friend Lloyd in this old gay dive bar where we play pool. Lloyd is a retired band teacher in his 70s. I love him. We talk about the state of education in Louisiana and what it takes to be a good teacher. Sometimes we talk about religion. He does not admit it but he is a closet atheist. We had a conversation about how when his brother was dying he said comforting things to his brother like, "Say 'hi' to Mom for me." "I'll see you soon." He asked if I thought there was anything wrong with saying those comforting things to his brother. I said no. I might be a full blown atheist now but I miss trusting my gut feeling. I find that I make decisions now with less confidence than before… I think that means I just have more things to work through, not that I actually want to believe again.
4. I am in a serious relationship that is two years old. We love each other. After two years though I realize that we are still getting to know each other. In some ways the me of two years ago was right. Being in a relationship was the next frontier but there was so much about serious relationships that I had not anticipated.

 I have to say that the church and its teachings about relationships have harmed me more than I realized. I find myself being passive not because I don't have an opinion but because that is what I grew up seeing. I find myself not speaking up because that is not what women were taught to do. Now that I am finding my voice and speaking up it changes the dynamic of an established relationship.

I am learning that the ideal relationship is one where you give the other enough space to change and grow and learn without judgment. Where you still have your own time to do the things that you want to do. Where you still have separate identities.

5. I find that I have made some mistakes over the last few years. I have quit actively asking myself what I want. I have allowed myself to fall into routine. I am not pushing myself in new ways like I was before. In some ways over the last two years I have allowed myself to choose comfort and stability over actively choosing to grow. (Part of this is because my new job is much more demanding than before, part of it is because I have not made time for myself… )

This year's New Years Resolutions have to be about personal growth in some way.

Monday, August 12, 2013

This is going to be ok (probably)

All those things that I said before in my last post about my assistant... I have a new perspective.

My new assistant is the Relief Society President of her ward…  Is a garment wearing, temple attender…
She is NOT however many of the things that I normally associate with people that are TBM. Maybe it is because she is NOT from Utah, has never lived there, hardly spent a day in that state in her entire life BUT she has not absorbed many of the things that I hate about Mormon culture.

She is Mormon but she is NOT judgy or at least not openly. (She did make sure to inquire about my church status. To which I responded that, "I left the church 4 years ago." She did not flinch. She did not start to proselytize. She did not ask any rude questions. Honestly, Mormon or not, most people who find out I am from Utah ask if I am Mormon. Her question was simply not as intrusive as I thought it would be. )

She drank a cup of coffee at one of our staff meetings.

She likes to go clubbing on Friday nights and salsa dancing on Saturdays but not too late so that she can make it church on Sunday morning.

She works really hard. (Ok. So maybe she absorbed some Mormon culture.)

I think things are going to be ok. In fact it might turn out to be a really cool thing. I am now feeling optimistic.