Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Apple Pie and American Politics

I think this article is right, for some of the 2020 candidates the catch phrase response for hard ball questions are "Well, I want to have a conversation" which in reality means, "I got nothing." From McKay Coppins,

"The truth is that when politicians are pleading for a national conversation, it is usually because they are trying to avoid one."

Perhaps in contrast (I don't know really) today I was listening to the Bernie Sanders interview on the NPR Politics podcast and heard him frankly say that when it comes to gun control and mass shootings he doesn't know what the solution is outside of banning assault rifles. I want to believe that when leaders admit they don't have a solution, but they are completely invested in finding one (and as a bonus have legislative history that shows their commitment) it can invite voices to the table. More voices means more ideas which means better ideas which means solutions. I really believe this is the very best chance we have at sustaining a working democracy.

Speaking of conversations, yesterday I went to meet with my Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie. Ivie, recently came out as Utah's first gay Republican government leader. This gave a lot of us progressives here a moment of pause. I didn't expect Ivie to start voting like a wanton lib (snowflake lib?) but I did think his particular situation (being raised in this homophobic county in the closet his entire life) could be a conduit to having our voices heard. Last week he voted for a non-binding anti-abortion "resolution" which was more about dog whistling and circus tricks for fellow commissioner Bill Lee than it was about a serious debate on women's health care choices.

I called him out on social media. His office contacted me for a meeting. Yesterday, after passing an entire hallway display of photographs after photographs of past white, male, conservative, straight (for all we know) commissioners I entered into Ivie's office for a solid chat about why I believe women should have full autonomy over their own health care choices. We disagreed on some things, but we did agree on two things: Utah County needs to do more about comprehensive sex ed, access to birth control and better options at our county health department AND the non-binding anti-abortion "resolution" was a asshole move (my word, not his!) (also I didn't say that word in the meeting, I am a lady)(ladies can say asshole anytime they want, of course)(I choose to curse strategically, like at my children when I need to) in attempt to rally the base over women's bodies.

Which makes me really, really sick. And take serious pause about living here--like I do every single day of my Provo-living life.

But he was willing to accept data on the rates of internalized misogyny here in Utah County which makes things tricky when you see and hear women on the daily support policies and positions that continue to oppress and hurt them and other marginalized groups. It makes no sense, until you see the data and are forced to ask yourself--"Yeah, why is it so many women are ok with the gender inferiority in almost all areas of their lives?" I know because I used to be one of those women. I mean, I am still in many ways trying to pick apart my own penchant for oppressing everyone but the faces of men in those photographs lining the hallway.

I think that's all I wanted to say on that today. I mean, besides, Lord, let us beat Trump I pray with all the vigor of my social-justice-warrior passionate heart.

In Michelle Obama's name, amen.

Monday, July 1, 2019

45 Minutes

Photo of me in CK in Tree Pose by our loving and patient personal trainer Sara Madsen

I have forty five...forty four minutes for writing today and I would like to write about 120 things. I'd like to write about middle age and how it comes at you like a train wreck--fast and relentless. It feels like someone is giving you your adolescence to do over, except this time you're an adult and you have better tools and more confidence to combat the blows to your self-worth. Isn't that sort of beautiful when you think about it? If you failed yourself when you were a young adult (which we all did, really), you get another chance to become a hero when you're a middle aged adult.

I mean, if you've learned anything at all.

And it's really not that we failed ourselves as young adults, it's that we didn't have the brain structure to see that we were doing JUST FINE. That when we faced ourselves--the person we were becoming--we were scared, and a lot of us ran away from what was forming in the mirror. But here in middle age we are returning back to that mirror, which is gift, and we're saying, what we were so afraid of? This person I am is fine. This body I have is good. My thoughts about life are beautiful. My intuition is right. I have value in being unabashedly me. I am complete. 

Or we look in the mirror and keep running. And now get why people do that. Makes total sense.

Because it also seems that in middle age you have to come to terms with your baggage. Do you want to carry that stuff for the next phase of your existence? If not, what will you leave behind? I think those brutally heavy middle age crises are the kindest thing we do for ourselves. We give ourselves a second chance at making the life we need for ourselves. Somewhere in our past we decided that right around middle age our brains were going to need to slough off some brain power to boost on to the next phase. Isn't that cool?

I had a morning chat with a therapist today about what I am going to try and leave behind on my journey up the age ladder. Or what I will refashion into something that doesn't feel so heavy. I know I have been holding on to a suitcase labeled VALIDATION OBSESSION that probably needs to go. Or least I need to take a whole hell of a lot of contents out of it so that it shrinks and becomes something manageable. I mean, we all want validation. RIGHT?!

(Did you catch what I did there?)

I have just spilled a lot of brain guts here and it's only been 9 minutes.

But seriously, if you are reading this right now and you are in your early thirties or younger, just know your second adolescence awaits you and you should probably line up a therapist and a bunch of really great friends and a stockpile of whatever you need to get you through to the next phase (be it Prozac or a Yoga Trainer or Tarot Cards or Vodka I am not judging)(or, in other words, basically all the things you didn't have the first time you went through this) and live up the last few drops of your remaining pre-mid-life crisis life.

And if you are reading this right now and you've navigated your way through a mid-life crisis, FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY drop me a line and tell me what is next. You owe this to me, you do. Because you didn't warn me about this weird spot in our human evolution. You didn't tell me about looking at the stars and freaking out about death. You didn't tell me about the second wave of sexuality that storms in all hungry and thirsty and judging you for abandoning parts of yourself that you didn't even know existed. You should have sat me down and said, you will do things you never saw coming for validation you never knew you craved so badly.

You should've warned me, at the very least, that life is one hell of a surprise.

And now my 45 minutes are up.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Home Again Around the Sun

On Summer Solstice I made my whole family come out on the back lawn at 9:54 to officially welcome summer. I can't wait for one of my kids to write a book entitled, What the Heck--the story of one child being raised by an apostate Mormon Wiccan-curious Social Media Witch. Hopefully it will fly off the shelves and pay for the therapy. You know, the therapy.

I've always loved the ancient and magical culture around celebrating the earth. I love the idea of Christmas combining with Winter Solstice. I love the words equinox, solstice, midsummer, midwinter. I also like the solstice synonyms for their sensuality--crest, peak, pinnacle, crown. And I love that these celebrations started at the very earliest of human endeavors. We figured out pretty early on when the sun was the highest and the lowest the sky and what it meant for us living underneath.

This Solstice I celebrated:

The marriage of my charming nephew Maloy to lovely Mckenna. At a backyard party at sunset, I watched my brother Matt dance with his beautiful granddaughter Bailey, as his brother-in-law Patrick passionately sang Elton John karaoke.

Laughing with my mom and two nieces Emma and Winnie as we attempted a Polaroid to commemorate the occasion.

And that morning, before the wedding, running into Matt on a morning walk when he was outside gardening with his big black dog Chief. I asked him how he was feeling about another child getting married, if he was emotional. "Not really," he said, "but that's because Maloy and McKenna are so great. McKenna is wonderful for our family, she brings perspective and diversity that our family needs. Like you do." Then I started crying so I carried on with my walk.

A get together with friends, having drinks (one appropriately named the Summer Solstice with black cherry) and laughing all the time, enjoying the bliss that being a settled adult can offer. Looking over at Christopher and feeling lucky...and sexy.

Spending the day doing nothing but sitting in the sun, reading, kissing my kids as trades for getting up to do something for them. Contemplating what to do next. Always that.

Drove to Juab County with Anson alone just to check out thrift stores. He bought an old bb gun and I found some gorgeous jewelry I guess no one wanted anymore. I thanked those who gave them up in my heart as I drove home with little pieces of art glistening on my body.

The rainstorm on our way home. We listened to a podcast about babies who experience attachment disorder. Then we talked about how crazy Anson's first year of life was--having had cousins live with us like siblings as he grew that year. Then having them gone. And how hard it was for me and maybe him. And how that might have lead to some feelings we haven't thought a lot about. And maybe it's time to think about it all.

The splendor of the Alpine Loop with Christopher and the kids when the aspens are thick and if you squint you think you can almost see those little midsummer fairies that Shakespeare wrote about being sly in the woods. Listening to Elton John on full blast. To keep up with the theme.

My dad always sang "Blue Eyes" to me growing up, this time when the song came on I turned around and sang it to my only blue eyed offspring Iris Eve.

Blue eyes laughing in the sun
Laughing in the rain
Baby's got blue eyes
And I am home again.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Road Trip!

Went into the desert with cousins yesterday to fill up, you know, spiritually. A dip in the dry sand and a visual intake of red rocks does me pretty good for a few weeks. I want to write a book about my relationship with all of these special parts of Utah.

(Am I book writer? Maybe.)

I do know that when I go into the desert words are pulled out of me like a magician with a hat and scarves. I can actually envision how the words look on a page. It unlocks me.

I love this season of my life. When the kids can play in the water without my accompanied maternal anxiety. When they can narrate their own adventure, and leave me to mine. When I can think. I couldn't think for ten years, I swear.

After we put the kids down, my cousin Lisa and I got into a laughing fit and couldn't stop. You know, when you think you've stopped yourself, but then it hits you and you have to start all over? It was like that. When you don't even know why you're laughing in the first place.

Then Ever said to us from the top bunk of the sprinter van, "Are you guys going to stop so we can  sleep?"

And I replied, "Sorry Mom."

Then we started laughing all over again.

Stay tuned for that chapter in my book...


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Ex Or Sexism

A post about sexism and religion. The data is new (2018), but the words I express are not. Same as it ever was. And yet, I need to say it, so here it is:

Yesterday I sat down to read this post on Religion in Public about sexism in religion. The Voter Study Group measured six models of modern sexism. Unsurprisingly to me, Mormon responses ranked near the top on all six models.When it came to measuring the gender gap between men's and women's sexism, there was nearly no difference for Mormons. Mormon women are as sexist as the men, and the men are pretty terribly sexist. As an example, one of the models Mormons scored high on is the belief "when women demand equality they are actually seeking special favors."

On one hand, it's validating to read the data that confirms the depth of feelings I have around this subject. I was once a woman who tried to convince myself and everyone else that the sexism I experienced in the church was OF GOD and therefore and honor ("God's ways aren't our ways!"). And then I tried to explain the sexism with scripture using symbols and holy sentiments (like benevolent patriarchy). And then, because creeds run deep, my life fell apart (it seemed) when I allowed myself to consider that my religion was incredibly sexist. At that point I could see sexism everywhere, out of the shadows, cemented in the doctrine (not "just cultural" or a "Utah problem") illuminated by gaslight ("you think too much").

On the other hand, reading this study also gave me a *hot minute of anger because it's a self-sustaining problem. If most of the people who go to the sexist church are sexist, no one cares enough to change anything. And the problem with that is real consequences to women starting at a young age which means it  hurts people I love. Internalized misogyny is a deeply painful disease, but even more so when you believe it's necessary to accept for your own eternal salvation. It hurts women in all ways--stunts their emotional and intellectual growth, promotes body image issues and eating disorders, puts them at risk for poor educational performance, heightens depression and anxiety, opens the door for economic vulnerability and encourages environments where abuse thrives (child brides comes to mind). And for girls who are queer or have melanin in their skin things get far more complicated.

This is why I can't bring my kids to church even if it's a "place for community!" or "good for them socially!," or "there are some good things!" etc. They already have a mom who was baptized in her own internal sexism, they don't need any more of that influence in their lives. And I know how it all seeps in, carefully, kindly, sliding into your morality as it blends with seemingly noble values. It all seems so normal, and wonderful, impossible to tell what is sexism and what is God. It's sustainable I suppose, until you are angry all the time and you don't know why, but you know you've felt it all your life. Even the men experience the anger, because misogyny hurts men (which surely should be an argument worth listening to in a sexist church, no?).

But I get it. I think about this all the time living in Provo. My Provo is a very different town than the one I was raised in. I mean, I think to a lot of people living here things haven't changed much (besides those pesky buses!) but to me, this town has provided very interesting experiences. It's as though there's an underbelly in Provo and once you stop going to church it sort of opens up to you. And just like awareness of sexism spotlit deeply painful truths in my journey, this counter-culture has illuminated all sorts of joys for me and my family without having to move. It's totally exquisite to see this gorgeous life open up just out your front door. However, this is what I used to say about my religion, right? It's just a matter of perspective--you see what you want, you notice what you choose to notice. If I choose to focus on the good, does it make the bad go away?

No. It doesn't. The grace I witness to now is that once I was blind, but now I see.

*I say a hot minute of anger because I have spent so many years inexplicably angry all the time, and once I could identify and hear my anger it didn't need to be so big in my life. I can now say, "Hey Anger, looks like you're here inside my chest. I am going to let you say your peace and then I am going to get on with my day kicking ass and showing up."