My Words. My Story.


Preface. I wrote this post last night.  I told Dave that I would not post it online, and would keep it with all my other working-out-my-religion posts.  Please know I never want to offend. That is why I try to leave my beliefs offline.  Also know that I am posting because this post is not about beliefs or doctrine. It is about community. Earlier today my friend, Amy in Texas, reminded me that maybe we can have a productive conversation about building community when she posted this Salt Lake Tribune article. It  was written two years ago. I think the author Paul Malan says it way better than I do:

Each time a non-traditional Mormon lets her neighbor see her unique beliefs, she makes it easier for everyone in the congregation to be true to themselves. One respectful voice at a time, the silent minority will begin to understand that they aren’t alone in their doubts and beliefs. Power will shift away from the monoculture and toward the productive edges  — to the ecotones where opportunity and challenges await, where ideas and opinions and personalities can blend together to create something like an ideological wetland: hard to define, hard to cling to, and infinitely more valuable to the world than anything Mormonism has been able to offer so far.”

My Words: I have been told that if I (a.) did not live in Utah, ground zero of Mormonism and (b.) had never been a Mormon that things would be different. I tend to agree. And in truth, this post is not about doctrinal discrepancies or our political differences. It is about community and my quest to find it here. And I know a big part of our community is measured (on both sides) then based on LDS church attendance and activity. Out of the gate, let me complicate that measurement. See, if I did not feel such a bizarre expectation when you see me at church, I would probably go. And in the interest of full transparency, yes, I would not attend full-time, but I would definitely go when I was feeling nostalgic, or wanted to connect with a very big part of who I am. Hold up. And to my non-Mormon, or former Mormon friends, you may ask,

“Beth, why are you bringing this up? This is not healthy. Draw a line. Make a boundary. Let it go and move on.”

To which I would respond, “You may be right, but why do you care?  This is my story and my experience. And I seem to recall that you were able to have your experience too.”

And to everyone on all sides: Obviously you may think I am crazy for feeling the way I do. Instead of crazy, I would suggest I am grey. Meaning I sit on fences, and fence-sitters are hard to measure or box in. I suffer way too much empathy (for all the sides). Mostly and for real, I love, respect and care deeply about my mom. I know how completely sad it makes her that I do not go. I take her seriously and reconciling her sorrow is hard. That is my uncomfortable truth.

Dave & I at the Natural History Museum, Salt Lake City, Utah
Dave & I at the Natural History Museum, Salt Lake City, Utah

I want all people to feel safe being their authentic selves. That is why I chose to be transparent. And the truth is, because I was raised LDS, and because I live in Utah, Mormonism is and will always be an inescapable part of my reality. I have very fond memories of the LDS community I was raised in. I met my best friend, Marianne, at church, and I met Dave at BYU. It was not all bad.  Eventually after fighting every single Sunday, Dave asked that we do something he wanted to do, which was to stop attending church.  I love him. I support him. I heard him and we stopped. At the time I wrote my local bishop a letter and asked him to include our family in activities. Then the Mormon bishop and I met in person. We had a friendly conversation and I never heard from him or really that ward again.  On a summer evening in a previous ward another Mormon bishop saw Dave and me out on a walk.  He hesitated. Then he stopped and approached. His words:

“I was told not to talk to your family. I was told that you did not want any contact.”

“I am glad you said something now.” I kindly responded as I held my ice tea by my side.

We assured him that he had been misinformed. I pushed further and reassured him that whether we went to church, sat in the halls at church (which we did a lot at that time), or did not go at all, we would would always be nice and open. I said,

“You are our neighbors. I do not think it needs to be so black and white. I hope we can all be friends.” To his credit, he and his wife have remained our friends.

Having a friendly conversation with these bishops are not isolated incidents. If I had a dollar for every Mormon church leader I have reached out to, I could buy a really nice outfit. It is awkward. Because I hope things can be different, every time we move into a new place, I (preemptively) reach out.

“No, we are not drug dealers or pedophiles. And sure, I only have 2 kids, but that was infertility not choice.”

They reach back in an an excessive flurry, usually offering to take our kids to church if we don’t want to take them ourselves.

“Beth, it takes a village. The whole neighborhood is raising my kids.” One man texted me.

I responded, “Hey, if my sons want to go to church, I am happy to take them.” I am certain his intentions were good. I am also certain he does not understand the divisive implications of what he is suggesting: Church is good, Inactive parents are bad (not worthy) = Mormon Ward Members (neighbors) will save Kyle and Eli.

Sure, I wish I could say that my very assertive and sincere, we-can-still-be-friends public relations approach works. It sort of works. Like for a minute. Then when people do not see us at church, or because church responsibilities demand so much attention, we are forgotten, excluded, or awkwardly included. I left my anger and resentment behind years ago. Each time I sincerely thank them and ask them to include me in neighborhood texts, activities, or service. I usually do not hear back. Remember, I know the culture. They are busy.  They are insulated and eventually, they drop off.  So when we do see them, they usually overly share, look down or pretend they do not see us.  It does not matter how many times I reassure them we are more like them then we are not. It does not matter how much I promise not to talk about doctrine, nor does it matter how many times I say nice things about their beliefs.  We are never part of the community.

I am also human. So when we do get invited to a church activities, my memories of how Mormons feel about outsiders kicks in.  I let my anxiety and preconceived judgements get the best of me and I act a little shy. Truth be told, I also persevere and force myself to engage:

“Hi neighbor. I am Beth. Our kids go to school with each other. Both of my boys are on the cross country team.”

The conversation always falls flat when they realize who I am and then they stare blankly. That is when I sense they are simply fulfilling an awkward responsibility to engage with the “inactive” lady. Check. I think you know the difference between a sincere and insincere response. Just in case you don’t I will give you an example:  It is like when your mom forces you to talk to the dorky kid, that kid you would never invite to your party or a ski weekend. It feels just like that. Weird, not normal.

I also get it. I am sensitive to their position. And of course, I have many Mormon friends who accept me no matter what.  Unfortunately, here in Utah, there is no separation of church and state so their better-ness and exclusivity bleeds into the culture. Mormon moms make the best PTA presidents and organize the best running groups.  Again. I get it. To them, I am an unknown. Consequently, I am not safe. I am an outsider. They are human and maybe saying hi to a stranger is really hard.  I imagine they could be gun-shy, because when they do reach out, they are are met with confrontation and frustration. My whole point is I do not need to be a stranger. I literally know and understand your culture. We literally live next to each other. Our kids go to school with each other. I can help you with your PTA stuff.  I am probably more like you than I am like my non-Mormon friends. Don’t you see that? That is why I keep trying to connect. I realize that I may not fit the mold of someone who does not go to church. I am grey.  In truth, who really fits into that mold? I know many of my close LDS friends do not.  I think there are more grays. And #protip, grays usually exist on the fringes. And I would actually argue that the fringes are getting even bigger.  If it helps, do you realize one of the reasons people exist on the fringe is their desire to bridge differences? The grays, or people on the fringes, will always be the first line of people willing to consider other perspectives.

But because I am (peculiarly) determined in my belief that all bridges can be crossed, I keep trying. I am honest and I want to give people the benefit of the doubt. I ignore the truth adjustments, weird excuses, or blatant deflections. Nevertheless, being excluded or labeled, “outsider” sucks. It is no longer about religion, but about tribe and belonging. I think I need help or advice or understanding or to finally find some consistent healing. Does it really need to be black and white? Do I really need to pretend my Mormon neighbor is not there when she is standing right in front of me? I keep writing, talking, and yes, even praying and meditating, in hopes of figuring out and resolving my weird relationship with Mormonism and the Utah Mormon community. Sometimes I think I have figured it out.  In those moments, I feel relief. Something happens and another layer peels away. Then I am reminded about  the incongruities between the inclusive Mormon teachings and reality.

Rest assured. At times, I  too, think I am crazy, brainwashed, or super weird for trying to resolve these disconnects between myself and my faith. I was raised in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where the LDS members clung tightly together in a place where Mormonism was considered a curiosity, and Mormons were definitely held at arm’s length. After feeling the culture exclusion, I swore I would never exclude or do anything to make someone feel less than.  And as fate would have it, I now live in opposite land:  Salt Lake City, Utah, a place where the predominant culture is Mormonism.  And now in this bizarre twist of fate, because Dave, the boys and I do not go to church, we are the peculiarity. We are definitely held at arm’s length, especially in our Mormon neighborhood. The disconnect kind of drives me crazy.  

My question: Why can’t people be normal (or in fairness, how normal like I see normal)? Why is it hard to embrace people on the fringes? Don’t they remember the persecution and rejection their religion suffered?  And really, why do they act so weird around me and my family once they realize we do not go to church?  It makes no sense. Wherever we live, the ward boundary dynamic is always the same. They are fine with us until they realize we are not exactly like them. And when a friend finally connects that we are different, they reflexively close the door (usually along with their friendship). It is so strange.  

Marianne and I, Red Iguana 2, Salt Lake City, Utah
Marianne and I, Red Iguana 2, Salt Lake City, Utah

Instead of the norm, I want things to be different. In some ways they are (actually). I want Kyle & Eli’s friends to consistently treat them equally, even though they do not attend Mormon seminary or attend Young Men’s activities. I want the neighbor ladies to include me in neighborhood text chats and group walks, even though I do not go to church. I want the dudes to include Dave on the fun stuff not just the awkward neighborhood football fellowshipping activity.  I want the dads to know that even though we do not go to church, and that my sons are not the LDS sons you want your daughters to date, my boys will always be respectful. I promise. Please know that we are strict. We talk to our boys about consent and we even follow Mormon cultural norms about dating and courtship.

Selfishly, I want to shake them and say,

“Come on. It is us, Beth, Dave, Kyle and Eli. We are respectful and we will not bite.We do not care that you go to church. Why do you care that we don’t?”

Am I asking too much? I do not expect perfection. How could I? We are not perfect. And really, I can be such a dork.  We know and understand you are super busy with all of your church commitments, obligations, and are most likely unaware of your commitment-based isolation (monoculture). Nevertheless it is clear you that unless we do it your way we will never fit in. We will remain the pariahs, which sucks,  by the way, because remember, we are nice. This could be an opportunity to heal or to bridge? And when you do connect, or when you do allow your children around Kyle and Eli, I do not understand why you get a pass and why we always feel like we have to present you with a personal worthiness resume, which includes, but is not limited to, a mention of our prominent LDS friends, our service experience, our Mormon history (yes, Dave & I went to BYU and all 4 years of seminary), and then why do we further need to assure you that we do not have amnesia regarding the Mormon church, its doctrine or values? And then there is this, why do we need to remain in compliance with Mormon dietary restrictions, especially when you are addicted to Diet Coke, secretly buying frappuccinos in the Starbuck’s drive-through line, binge eating desserts, hyper gossiping, Netflix binging, or drinking mass quantities of Red Bull? Finally, I want to shout (so it penetrates):

“None of this makes sense!”

Representing my people wearing my color: gray
Representing my people wearing my color: gray

In the end, I know the idea that we can all get along is my hope and really a fantasy. I know you have been taught a certain way and ultimately, I know I do not fit into any of those safe and acceptable boxes. Let me assure you again. I do not expect anyone to see the world like we do. I also know that our neighborhood is deeply rutted in cultural norms, traditions and expectations. From our perspective, you guys can seem a little cult-y and exclusive. We are willing to look beyond. We know we are the outsiders. Nevertheless, we are your neighbors. I walk the same sidewalks. Our kids go to the same schools. And sure, we may not be doing things the same as you anymore, but we are probably much more similar than you think. Bottom line is this:  You are a huge part of who we have always been.

Please Love Me, The Syndrome

Dave and I at my sister, Brenda's wedding, October, 1999.
Dave and I at my sister, Brenda’s wedding, October, 1999. (I was 8 months pregnant.)

Note: I am not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on tv. Keep in mind that my dad is a psychologist. Enjoy.

I am stealing that phrase from Dr. Gabor Maté. After posting about being “all in” yesterday, my friend nailed it and suggested I watch his Youtube Video titled, “When The Body Says No: Mind/Body Unity and the Stress-Disease Connection.”  Seeing as how I have the attention span of a fly, in bits and pieces I have been watching Dr Maté’s talk since then. The concept of the Please-Love-Me syndrome is sticking with me most.  The Please Love Me Syndrome is apparently an adaptive result of say some sort of stressor, like a rage-ful dad (his words). Consequently, because we want to please our (rageful) parent and because we crave their love, we learn to adapt, inevitably hiding our authentic selves. To a child this literally translate to the following coping mechanism:

“I will do whatever it takes for you to love me, or better, I will suppress who I am so you will love me and attach.”

My adult translation: “At all costs, I will take your shit.”

Pushing his please-love-me theory further, Dr. Maté suggests that when we repress our authentic self, we also stress our physical selves out, which he asserts leads to disease. Again my translation is the following: So to gain your asshole — that is to say, rage-ful — dad’s acceptance (love)  we learn to suppress who we are, and then we get sick. Eventually all that adaptive, stress-based self-suppression makes us sick. Weird I had a lot of stomach aches as a child. I have indigestion just thinking about my past. And now I have Celiac disease. Does correlation equal causation? Hmmmm. Obviously the correlation here is that we suppress ourselves because we fear making our mean dad mad (fear rejection). Eventually our adaptive please-love-me behavior becomes so reflexive that it transfers to our other relationships and literally becomes who we are. I am living proof.

Minneapolis, MN: My sister, Brenda's, wedding, October, 1999
Minneapolis, MN: My sister, Brenda’s, wedding, October, 1999

Consequently, as I search for meaning and search for Beth, Dr. Maté’s words resonate. The need to please has literally informed everything. For instance, I have a knack for being attracted to smart, creative,  funny, dynamic, super intense, unpredictable, and oh, very cruel, self-obsessed humans (all characteristics I would use to describe my dad). Often I am lucky and I find friends (and spouses) who share most of the traits (minus the douchebag ones).  At times I have wondered if my please-love-me behavior has morphed into some sort of crazy addiction. Meaning, I get a buzz off of your approval as much as your disapproval. In fact your disapproval only makes me try harder. Further, when I do attract a rageful beast, my please-love-me behavior becomes all-consuming, often spinning out of control. I never get it. Rageful beasts are never satisfied and simply feed off of rejecting all the please-love-me fools caught in their net.

Pushing the mean dad analogy further, I found it interesting that Dr. Maté used a rageful dad as an example. I kind of get it. Do we all have mean dads? No. In fact, Dave is the opposite of mean. He is kind, invested, esteem-promoting and knows his boys. Sadly, in contrast to Dave, my dad was anything but esteem-promoting. What I remember about my dad, which is not much, is that he always seemed disappointed, more specifically, disappointed in me. When it was my weekend to go to his house (yes, my parents were divorced), I never saw my dad. My brother had my dad’s attention, and I was pawned off to my stepmother, his second wife, and yes, they are divorced now too. When I was not with my stepmom, I spent my time far away in the basement where I was asked to remain.  Ergo, (because I have been dying to use this transitional word), in my dad’s basement, I slept, watched television and entertained myself. I always loved when my brother came downstairs. Eventually I stopped going to my dad’s. It would make sense (at least to me) that my brother would continue his weekend visits. He did. My brother also tells me that things were not much better for him. I do not disagree.

My awesome sister, Brenda, and I at her wedding, October, 1999, Minneapolis, MN.
My awesome sister, Brenda, and I at her wedding, October, 1999, Minneapolis, MN. (Yes. I am super duper pregnant in this photo. My sister is gorgeous!)

My relationship with my dad came down to the following conversation he had with my mom. I think it was a gift.  My dad firmly stated that he only wanted my three children, and that I was unwanted. Yes, I heard him say these words. Remember land lines?  Well, I was on one phone while my mom was on the other. My guess is my dad had no clue I was listening. I was. My mom had no idea he would say what he did. I know her heart dropped when she heard him say,

“I don’t want Beth.”

I know she wanted to grab the phone away from my ear. I was in another part of the house. Instead, I continued to quietly listen.

Here it is. I am the youngest child. I could never figure out my dad’s beef with me. In truth, I know his beef was with my mom. With her not present, I became the puppy he could kick. I always felt his rejection. I still feel his rejection. It is cruel and it is abrupt. The only way I could survive him (the beast) is if I let go and shut the door. I did. Ok. Sure, it took me several years to get the clue that my dad did not want me. Again I think it was a phone call. He called my therapist at the time a “shrink,” and since my dad was, ironically, in the mental health profession himself, his choice of that particular condescending term was deliberate. And as Eli most humorously conveys,

“Hey mom, condescending means ‘to talk down to.’”

My dad talked down to me and I was done. I did what I do to most beasts. I scream. I short-circuit. I swear and then I hang up, lock myself in my room, or go for a very long walk. And if we are really being truthful and I am, please know that  I will always, always hope for the beast’s  approval, LOVE, forgiveness, acceptance, and (for what I don’t know, but I still want it). For now, I have  learned to live without it.

My dad is now seventy-five. My last memory of seeing him in the flesh was nearly seventeen years ago and after the phone call when I hung up on him. He flew to Minnesota (so did I) for my sister Brenda’s wedding. I was approximately eight months pregnant with Kyle, and at the point where I should not be flying. I flew anyway.

After the ceremony, my dad walked over to me. He and I said very few words to each other, yet I felt joyous, as if we were long lost friends. As he spoke, he placed his hand on my large, pregnant belly. I stood there and his hand remained, firmly on my stomach. I was consumed with his hand placement and wondered,

“Will he like who I have turned out to be?”

In that moment, I adapted.

Duality is interesting. In a flash I also saw how his behavior as my parent had informed all of my decisions as an adult.  I knew I did not want to be him, but I really wanted him to like and accept me. I found his hand repellant, wanted it off of my belly and away from my unborn son, yet I felt elated while I basked in his approving touch. Because I did not feel comfortable asking him to take it off, his hand remained. Standing there I felt forced to think about us. I thought about him as a father. I was not him. I am not him. In those seconds it was clear. I knew I wanted to be different. I wanted to be a part of my child’s life. I also felt proud and peaceful. I take my marriage seriously. I did not marry because it was the next step in a religious expectation. Instead I married someone I liked, loved and felt really good about marrying (I love Dave). I resolved to have kids when I wanted to have them. I resolved to not blame my kids, but to take responsibility as the parent. I resolved to  be patient and remember that I am the teacher. I resolved to take responsibility and I resolved to apologize when I screw up. And when I had Kyle and Eli, I resolved never ever to reject them. I never will. Those boys are my heart and soul. Each day with them serves as a reminder of what my dad has missed – his choice, not mine.

He took his hand away and we have not spoken since.

Dave and baby Kyle, Salt Lake City, Utah early 2000.
Dave and baby Kyle, Salt Lake City, Utah early 2000.

Kyle and I at my friend, Melanie’s wedding, Atlanta, Georgia, May, 2000

As I wind this post down I keep thinking,

“If only all my problems, including my please-love-me affliction, were because of my bad relationship with my father. If only…”

Unfortunately life is not that simple. I get that. So for me being “all in” also means facing all of me.  Here is how I picture myself. I am mummy wrapped in layers (years-worth) of gauze. Now I think my life’s journey is about ripping off that gauze. Honestly, I am a little overwhelmed. I am wrapped in so much gauze that I look like a big, fluffy mummy.  I am certain (because I already have) that as I peel away that I will find scars, pain, scabs, blood and unhealed wounds. Most days I would much rather remain a fluffy, protected, gauze-y creature (fence-bound). I also know that my desperate please-love-me behavior wants to remain hidden. Yet when I muster the courage, I must admit that gauze removing rocks. It is always those times when I start to unwrap when I am reminded of the love and support and strength that envelops my world!

Eli and I, Banff National Park, Canada, July 2004
Eli and I, Banff National Park, Canada, July 2004
The boys and I, Banff National Park, Canada, July 2004
The boys and I, Banff National Park, Canada, July 2004

And all exposed I feel grateful. I am grateful I get to be Kyle and Eli’s mom. And I am grateful I have a partner who does not freak out if I tell you we had a fight. I am also grateful Dave supports my quest, or maybe he simply prefers human Beths to gauze-wrapped mummies.

Kyle and I at the Oregon Coast Summer 2003
Kyle and I at the Oregon Coast Summer 2004

PS. The best part of being a wife and a mom is that I get to be a part of Dave, Kyle and Eli’s amazing journey. I would not trade this gift for anything.

Oxygen Masks, Mormon Crafty Blogs and the Apocalypse

A small, yet wordy, preface: I have a lot to say. I always have a lot to say, and usually Dave or a few phenomenal friends get that earful. With Dave working far, far away, and because I believe one friend needs to attend to her dog (hi, Opie) and the other, for instance, well, I’ve already spoken with her at least seventeen times just today, I think I need to dust off my old blog, and find another way to let these words escape. Oh yes, I used to blog.

These days, I try to keep silent. I stop my thinking, and simply freeze the overly-analyzed thoughts, only letting them escape when letting them free is better than keeping them in, like now. I have such an icy mouthful accumulating. It is like I am stuck in that space right after, say, one shoves a giant spoonful of Mint Oreo Cookie ice cream in one’s mouth, and currently that yummy, very cold spoonful is stuck, frozen right in that spot, the spot the ice cream moves to as one begins to swallow; uncomfortable at best. As my throat throbs, my mind is confusing my frozen brain chaos for an epic ice cream headache. Words need to get out! My eyes water while I reflexively place my warm tongue to the roof of my mouth. Seriously, if I am not careful, as my frozen words begin to thaw, some poor, unsuspecting Whole Foods employee, or worse, a terrified mom (because she will be terrified once she hears what I have to say) well, that unsuspecting soul will get an earful of my now warming words. I can’t hold the frozen forever. I cannot cover the enormous mouthful or the enormity of this issue in one post either. Scratching the surface, kind of like nails on a chalkboard, is what I promise.

The Story: Remember what the airlines say, “Put your mask on first, and then help.” I think that sometimes we are so mired in our own stuff that we forget the, “And then help,” part (myself included).

It could have been anywhere. I could have been with any group of women, yet a Mormon Church Relief Society Meeting is where it happened to be. In case you do not know, Relief Society is the women’s auxiliary arm of the Mormon Church. On Sundays, Relief Society fills one of the three church hours. I debated whether I should include where I was, because I did not want to distract from the story, yet including it will, in my opinion, paint a clearer picture. So yes, I found my way to a Mormon Church Meeting, (long story, don’t read into it either way, by the way, don’t judge, ok, judge, but do not assume).

As I sat in this Mormon Church Relief Society Meeting, my head was pounding, and not from ice cream. I did not want to be there, but there is where I was. For a quick escape, I sat close to the door, next to my sweet, and very talkative neighbor. I listened as the women teaching the lesson shared her message. She asked for comments, and in the one place I thought I was free from the Internet, there it was. After a woman shared her dislike and disgust of Facebook, 500 gazillion members and counting, “I may be the only person in the world under 80 years old who does not have a Facebook Account blah, blah, blah…” Another woman sheepishly raised her hand, “I just joined Facebook and I have connected with family I never knew…” Like erupting popcorn, all over the room the hands flew. Church is a place where no one really knows me, and thank God, no one there knew I used to blog. Pop. Pop. Pop. The hands popping high, and I thinking, “How can I be at church and people be having this discussion?” yet there I was. And the there was the hand, and like my first spoonful of ice cream, once the hand went down, her words began to churn, “I am a young mother. I love my children. I am crafty. I would like to make money for my family. I am also busy raising my children. There are all of those CRAFTY MORMON WOMEN BLOGS. There are the Mormon Women Blogs that tell you how to make your house just like theirs and there are the Mormon Women Blogs that talk about their happy, happy family. [insert frustrated pause here] I cannot be them. I want to. I can’t. Their kids are perfect. Their lives are perfect. They make money from showing the rest of us their perfect worlds. I am too busy wiping noses and changing diapers.” I could feel the I-am-less-than bleeding out of her.

And as I listened, I literally threw up in my mouth while my heart sank. It wasn’t the place, and maybe this isn’t the place, but COME ON PEOPLE, something needs to be said. As my story moves, I will tell you WHY. At that moment, while I sat in church, I did know better. I was simply afraid to speak. I should have opened my mouth, yet I remained silent. Shame on me!

The young woman continued, “If only I could be like them. If only I could be them.” I wanted to scream, but I didn’t want to look foolish, or better, more foolish than I was already feeling. I wanted to stand up in this room, a room of mostly strangers and shout, “YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!” I know. In my head, I see myself as so Free-to-Be-You-And-Me. Hey, Rosie Greer (most of you are too young. Google it), well, Rosie Greer had a point when he sang those sweet words, “It’s all right to cry,” and all the other things you do by simply being you.

As she talked, she sparked a conversation. I am so glad she did. The other women persisted, and the hands continued to pop. I wanted to assure her, I wanted to assure them. I wanted to say, “It’s a bunch of smoke and mirrors.” I wanted to tell them, “Sure, some of those women totally have it together, or at least mostly together, and are super cool, but behind those Arty Salt-Flats-Family-Photos (a Utah thing), behind those lovely Instagram shots, the “Facebook happy” posts, the “Martha Stewart” look (something she mentioned), the white-stitched-jeans, the dessert bars, and impeccably sewn Etsy dresses, I promise you they all struggle. They doubt. They compete. They take Prozac. They weep silently. They overeat. They starve themselves, they exercise too much, their husbands are depressed, and while they work on their blog, their houses are a mess.” Desperately, I wanted to say, “WOMEN, you are all good! You deserve a space on this planet. You DO NOT have to be perfect!” (Yes, I know I am being dramatic, but it breaks my soul to see and feel so much pain. And damn it, dramatic is what I feel.) And finally, I wanted to tell this woman. Hey, I don’t know you, but you are here. You seem like an awesome mom, and guess what, it just doesn’t matter. Did you know that scientifically getting “likes” on Facebook or Instagram are one of the simplest forms of a Dopamine response? It’s crack for the non-drug user. Facebook “likes” or sponsorships on your Crafty Mormon Blog do not mean that you are better, or more perfect. You are good!

Unfortunately, this is just a sampling of the bigger issue. I really wish they did, but Mormon Women Bloggers and Mormon Women have not cornered the market on competition, the freakish strive for perfection, the need to keep up, or at all costs, and I really mean, at all costs, the need to be number one. I think we all know that.

We seem to be living in a world where so much energy is spent on the outward, on the appearance of looking like we have it together, that our kids are perfect, damn it, and that our marriages are painless; all the while people are disintegrating on the inside. We aren’t taking time to be the smart pig, of The Three Little Pigs, that is, and we are building are very attractive houses with straw, you know what I mean? We are so concerned with keeping up that we are forgetting to build together. We live in a world where it is easier to look away, wait, I mean, pull out our cellphone and videotape the tragedy, then putting our cellphone in our pocket, offering to help, especially when helping is not the popular thing to do, and Epic Fail YouTube video gets us way more friends, right? This issue of striving is so big. I know I am at fault. Like I said and for starters, I tend to keep my mouth shut instead of sticking my words out there. Women we are hard on ourselves and we are hard on each other. Please, it has to change. Why the hell do we stand on top, crushing each other, instead of standing together? Why can’t we be more brave? Why don’t we take sides, or go the road less traveled? Seriously, why?

Didn’t all of those as-I-have-loved-you-love-one-another church lessons, or those after school specials, or that Three Cups of Tea book (wait, he was a fraud), well and nevertheless, didn’t they teach us anything? Leave “Facebook Happy” to some far away land, a land Brandon Mull can create; a world with wizards, thinking zombies, and a world with amazing people, people who can remove a seed from their neck, plant it and be reborn. And if I am making no sense, let me tell you why we need to reach out, be honest, accept ourselves warts and all, throw away the smoke machines, and break the mirrors.

Earlier this week I heard about a woman. This amazing Mormon woman, a woman with a high level of education, had been student body president, an athlete, an active church attender, and also served an LDS Mission, was a friend, a daughter, a sister a wife and a mother, well, earlier this week, this lovely and amazing woman, alone, drove to a park and ended her life.

I did not know her. I knew her brother. I have no idea the unbearable pain and soul-crushing heartache she was in. I cannot judge her. I can only be sad, sad needed to go. Did she feel less than? Was she struggling to keep up? We can make excuses and say she was depressed. Of course she was sad.

She was also our sister, our wife, our mother, our friend, and for some reason it was better for her to leave this world alone then to hang on. I only wish I knew her. Her sudden death has hit me quietly, and has broken my heart. As a sister, daughter, wife, mother and a friend, myself, I think of the spaces those titles fill. She was someone’s daughter. She was someone’s mother, and now she is gone.

As I think of her, I think of the moments when I judge or simply look away. Sure, I know we need to fix ourselves, and that no one can make us happy. We all know that. I would like to think, however, I could be there to hold someone’s hand, especially when their own world seems so dark, and bottom-of-the-ocean like. I hope I could at least hold their hand long enough so they can resurface, and catch their breath. In those dark, scary, and uncomfortable moments, I hope I can remind someone that they are good enough, and completely worth it. I do not know enough about suicide except to say that suicide crosses all socioeconomic ranges, all ages, races and religions. Statistically, there seems to be way too many people who have completely lost hope. According to national statistics, 105 people end their life each day in the United States alone.

Blogs and Facebook be damned, because when the Apocalypse comes (wink wink) the internet will die, including crafty Mormon Women blogs, and with all the surviving cock roaches, and 10 million pounds of unground wheat (remember Mormons have a lot of food storage), I will also take the following, because what we have centered or stuffed inside is what we will always have. I will be grateful. I will be grateful for those moments, especially the moments when I am feeling completely less than. I will be (because I already am) grateful for those breathless, paralyzing moments, when a complete stranger, a Whole Foods cashier, a woman at church, an empathetic park mom, or a dear friend sees me, reaches their hand out, and their heart forward long enough to lift me to safety. Instead of trampling me to get out of the burning plane, or more apt, letting me suffocate, they stop and they help.  How cool is that?  My guess is that they already had their oxygen mask on, or are very good at holding their breath. Breathe and then lift. And as they wait for me to put my mask on, I am grateful they always stay long enough to hear me breathe. Thank God!

Great Basin National Park from both sides…

with a little Mormon who-do-you-know

Us Great Basin National Park

Heading west, we are leaving Great Basin National Park. I see the reflected sunset blend pinks, blues and purples across the mountains. I wish I could capture what I see. These mountains’ die cut shapes are now printed in my mind.

We are literally yards away from the little town of Baker, NV, population, 385. Of course Dave and the boys are once again listening to Brandon Mull’s “The Beyonders.” It is never lost on me, because my boys tell me so, that Brandon Mull is a friend of Uncle Denny’s. I think it is hilarious how the Mormon Church and consequently living in the state of Utah, we end up playing our very own game of Six Degrees of Separation. In the Mormon Church, especially here in Utah, however, you are never separated by more than one degree. Because of this Utah-and-Utah-Mormon-phenomenon, it is no shock that I am also friends with one of Senator Harry Reid’s sons, or that the now famous author of Book of Mormon Girl, and outspoken Mormon Scholar, Joanna Brooks, is a good friend of mine; so is her lovely sister, MB. If you knew how closely connected the Utah-based Mormon culture is or is it was, you would understand that it is commonplace that I am (no joke) one degree away from the Mormon Mommy Blogger who was horrifically burned in a plane crash, and found the strength to rise above, Nie Nie, although we have never met. Everyone I know has or is somehow related to her or at least that is what they tell me. I promise you that a good friend of mine, a friend who also dated my brother, is very good friends with the Twilight Lady. So when my friend Robin introduced me to the lovely and talented Carrie way back when, within a millisecond I knew I had hit paydirt. Then and literally my eleven-year-old-girl heart skipped two beats as I learned Carrie’s Dad is like the most FAMOUS MORMON EVER! If you were both LDS and alive in the late 1970’s through mid 1980’s you knew the uber popular Mormon Musical, and now parodied, Saturday’s Warrior, a musical in short based on the Plan of Salvation through song. And if you know Saturday’s Warrior, you also know that Mr. Lex De Azevedo is the musical’s great producer and co-writer. Ok and yes, it is very cool that Lex De Azevedo was also the musical director for the Sonny and Cher show, The Jackson Five and The Osmonds, but as a young Latter Day Saint living in the heartland, Saturday’s Warrior was EVERYTHING! No. Seriously! EVERYTHING! Ok. Don’t mock, but listening to the soundtrack on my little tape recorder and belting, “Line upon Line. Precept upon precept. That is how he lifts us. That is how [insert dramatic pause here] he teaches his children…” I was transported. I was full of hope. I was one of those stars in the sky. And back in say, 1982, every congregation put on their own production of Saturday’s Warrior. I make no excuse for the fact that I wanted to rip perfect little Tana Call’s vocal chords out when she got the part of Julie, female lead. Saturday’s Warrior, like it or not, was the soundtrack of my Mormon youth. So the fact that my friend Carrie is also related for you older folks, the King Sisters (her Grandma), and to you Indy-Rock-Hippies, Arcade Fire (her cousins) really makes Carrie the Holy Grail of what-Famous-Mormon-do-you-know. Thankfully Carrie is as normal as any person who grew up LDS can be [wink wink]. Might I add, for eleven-year-old me, knowing Carrie would have honestly been better than seeing those Golden Plates for myself, taking photos and stashing a plate or too in my safety deposit box. And yes, I have told her so.

On and on the silly connections go. Oh wait, and speaking loosely of the Osmonds, because they really are the Kevin Bacon of this Mormon game, my favorite secret connection of all time is that my very good friend Eric’s sister is married to Jimmy Osmond — so awesome! (Sorry for outing you Eric.)

I promise you if they were or have ever been a Mormon and you were or ever have been a Mormon, you would know them or be just as connected to them too. Alan introduced me to (love him or hate him) Orrin Hatch and Orrin claimed to even know my website. I, to this day, am sure he was prepped. And yes, everyone I know knows Mitt Romney or went to BYU with his sons. Years ago I saw him at church. He was playing with one of his grandchildren in the back. He stood right next to me while I chased Kyle around the gym. And in fairness I have seen Donny Osmond twice, once at church in Minnesota, the Wayzata Chapel, to be exact, and once at the Orem Costco, where he held the back gate open for us so we could sneak in.

I digress. Wow. I really digress.

Great Basin National Park

As the boys listen to The Beyonders, I am wearing my headphones to block out the story’s narration. My iPod is on full volume, I do not like the song playing, and fast forward to Radiohead’s, “Creep,” the acoustic version. Is there a better road trip song? If only I could scream the words out loud? “I am a creep…what the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here…you’re so very special. I wish I was special. Whoa, whoa. She’s running out. She run. run. Runnnnnnnuuuunnn.”

Great Basin National Park

Dave and I are trying to decide if we should stay for the night. We’re pulling over. I have no idea what the little grocery store/bar/restaurant/ice-cream-shop is called. Great Basin National Park, home of the Bristlecone Pine (the world’s oldest tree), is the least visited national park for a few simple reasons. It is on the western middle-of-the-desert-middle-of-nowhere border between Utah and Nevada. Great Basin is hard to get to, is not on any major highways or byways, and is not at all close to anything else. Years ago since learning she was there (yes, Great Basin is a she), I have always felt a kinship to this stunning and forgotten place. We drove through Great Basin in our camper van many years ago. Eli was a baby and the night we camped was stark, cold and I was convinced that the only other camper chose to camp right next to us because he was a serial killer. If I closed my eyes, even for the split-est of seconds, he would most certainly get us. I asked Dave to lock everything up and sleep on the bottom section that night. My guess all these years later and maybe because the boys are old enough to protect me, is he simply did not want to feel so alone. Because the Bristlecone-Pine area was closed for the winter when we were here before, Dave has always wanted to come back.

Stopped on the side of the road, we were in Baker, NV, which is a “blink once” and you’ll miss it little town. We drove to the other side of the street, parked, walked up the stairs, into the restaurant and agreed that the boys could have ice cream shakes. Our tall waiter, with blue jeans he wore just a few inches above his waist and the only waiter, by the way, directed us to take a menu and a seat. Here we sat in this eccentrically delightful restaurant colored in bright reds, yellows, and filled to the brim with art, framed, crazy sculptures hanging above us, displayed in the bathroom, and all with affixed price tags.

The restaurant is the size of a Starbucks bathroom and oddly enough they were using various Starbucks flavored syrups for the Italian Sodas. We looked over the menu while Eli looked around. “Hey Mom, our waiter looks just like Bill Nye the Science Guy,” Eli said and we all agreed.

Outside the restaurant in Baker, NV

There was no caramel for the shakes, and then our waiter kindly suggested,
“I like it when he mixes flavors.” “Do you think we can mix ours’?” the boys both asked him. “I’m sure you can,” he said in the mellow warn-out voice of an outgrown hippie, who may or may not have moved to tiny and remote Baker, NV to follow his dreams.

Dave decided on an enormous ice cream with homemade cookie sandwich.
Me, well, I had some green tea. I was cold.

Inside the Baker, NV restaurant

Our day began in Tonopah, NV. Have you ever been in sweet travel slumber only to be assaulted by the unfamiliar repetitive beeps of an obnoxious hotel alarm clock? Happened to us. I swear it was 5:30 a.m. Dave, who was wearing his watch, assures me it was 6:00 a.m. I was the closest to those piercing beeps. Unable to ignore them I started swatting at the nightstand. Imagine my arm completely outstretched hitting fervently into the darkness. That’s what I did. Later on the kids even said while pointing at that mean hotel clock, “Mom, what did you do to that alarm clock?” Thankfully the sleep-induced damage was nothing and I was able to set the clock upright and snap the iPod dock thingy back in. Yay!

Exactly nine minutes later I heard it again. Beep. Beep. Beep. “Damn it! I only hit snooze.” Swatting at it again I could not make that ugly and unfamiliar sound stop. Pleading, I asked, “Dave, please. I cannot see. Please read the buttons and make it stop!” I may have handed him the alarm clock. I honestly do not know. Dave fixed it and we fell asleep that is until I heard the familiar sounds of my own alarm. I allowed myself two snoozes. And after yesterday’s falling-down-the-rabbit-hole day, I wanted us up and out the door.

We stopped at Giggles, yes, of course the gas station. Gas was down to $4.19 a gallon. We filled up, and were on our way.

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Why I am NOT voting for Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

As my husband, Dave, and I walk the pathways along Park City, Utah’s Swaner Nature Preserve my thoughts are clear. My words come easily. They come in strings of vivid analogies, perfect metaphors and complete, well formed thoughts, or, at least in that moment, that is how it seems. The sun is shining, and my thoughts are pushed forward by our momentum. I feel solid. Then I declare why I will not vote for Mitt Romney.

“People should use their own experiences to decide!” I firmly state.
“Absolutely!” Dave responds.
“Believe me. I am using my own experiences and they may not make sense to anyone, yet they are what I stand on and stand for.” I laughed.

Maybe it is because, like a cheesy 1990’s Tom Cruise movie, Dave really does complete my thoughts, or maybe because I knew Dave was listening and was not feeling threatened, defensive or challenged by my words, in that moment, I knew I was safe. I was free to figure it all out and process my conclusions.

Then tonight I read Dave my post over the phone. He asked if I (really) wanted to post my thoughts here. See, I read to him while he was stuck in LA traffic and was wearing a headset while we spoke. Consequently, I knew I had his attention. (By the way, he is probably still somewhere on the 405.) I know he is concerned about pushback and pointless debate. I am grateful he is. After I heard his concern, I told him what I will now share with you.

See, along the way I decided that sometime, somewhere I need to stop having one foot in and one foot out, get off that fence, and stand on my own two feet. My two feet may be shaky and poorly worded, but they are the two I will try to stand on. It has not been an easy thing for me to do and here is where I start. You may not like what I have to say. You may want to pray for me or even try to save me. All your prayers are welcome, by the way. My thoughts are real and believe me I am not trying to convince you how to think or even how to vote. I want everyone to think about the why. Why are you voting the way you do?

Be informed.

As we walked and worked through our words it was increasingly apparent that my experience with the LDS church is central to why I am voting the way I am. Why wouldn’t it be? As hard as I try to be just Beth, the fact that I was raised in the Mormon church is and will always be a part of me, how I am perceived and how I am treated. It is no picnic living in a community where the non-Mormons only invite you to daytime (non-drinking) activities, or simply exclude you or are afraid of you because they hear your name and the word, Mormon in the same sentence.

Worse for me are the Mormons. It is worse because I know what they have been taught. And really, I am talking specifically about the Mormons who keep you at arms length. The ones who only talk to when they are assigned to, or show up at your door with a chicken concoction when someone close to you is in the hospital or has died. These Mormons do not let their kids play with yours, yet when you see them, they hug you and tell everyone what good friends your kids are such good friends. Confusing at best. I am guessing we experience the local-Park-City-Mormon “Pariah” treatment because Dave and I do not go to church. Nothing is worse to a Mormon than a lapsed Mormon. At least non-Mormons have hope. They still can be converted. Thank God for the Mormons I know who seem to know I am not evil. They still accept me even though I do not drink the Mormon beverage of choice: Diet Coke and not the cafeine-free variety [wink wink].

It is hard because people are fluid in their choices while in the moment seeming very black and white. When someone criticizes me for not wearing my Mormon Temple Garments, I feel like I am bad. Years later, when that very same black and white soul no longer believes, I equally feel less than when they accuse me of believing in an invisible God. Why would I vote for someone who is proven to be so black and white in his words, yet seemingly so fluid in his plan. It makes no sense. I have researched and tried to figure our what Mitt’s plan is. I do not understand why he cannot share his taxes and I think it is lame that he can write off his tithing donations or charitable contributions into a tax shelter, but my friends who seek help from their local church leaders are treated like they are less worthy because they are asking for help. Google it. My experience with people who make bold, black and white statements is that they will always change. Extremes are just too hard to maintain. This minute they firmly believe A, the next they say that A is dumb and you are dumb for believing A. Makes no sense. Do I?

For some strange reason Dave and I have always remained firmly planted in the grey. We tend to see-both-sides and I am grateful for this perspective. When friends on all sides of the line openly share their opinions, I want to hear what they have to say, and consider their words. I can be swayed, that is, until someone shoves their words down my throat and has no interest in my response. Why would I want a president who not only sees people on welfare as lazy and worthless, but sees people raised in his own faith as not as worthy, because they are not as wealthy or do not go to church? I want a president who values me as much as he values my friends on welfare and as much as he values someone who does not believe in God. I want to know that there is a place for me, and what I have to say. I am not sure Barak Obama is that person, but for me, at least he was not raised in a Mormon Patriarchal society.

We kept walking and really my thoughts were emotionally driven, I know. I am going on character and not policy yet character is how I vote, at least right now. “Dave, I like talking politics with you. We never fight. We discuss and we work through our issues, and even when we don’t completely agree, we are cool. It is safe. You do not shove your ideology down my throat and you trust me to make the best decision for me. ”

Ok. Sure. We are married. Dave knows me and knows how I think. It was completely refreshing that he did not criticize me when I said, “birth does not begin with conception.”

He knows me. He knows my story. He has bothered to ask what I think and because of these things, he showed compassion, “If birth began at conception then I guess you would be going to Hell after all of your many miscarriages.” He said.

Thank you Dave and then he continued, “Actually, the Mormon Church holds the same view that birth begins when you are born.” Sure, sure, I know this statement could be argued and some would say life begins in the pre-mortal world before you were born. And I am not here to talk Mormon doctrine. I am not the best on the subject anyway. I am here to share what events have shaped my opinion and consequently my vote.

We were rounding the bend and I continued, “For me, I was raised in the Mormon church. I have been raised in a culture where for example women are taught to submit to their husband:

“A married woman’s place is in the home, where she sustains and supports her husband…”
~Bruce R. McConkie, Our Sisters from the Beginning, Ensign, Jan 1979

I do not know if I want a president who thinks he knows more than I do, because of the simple fact that I am a lady.”

And then there is the whole the-richer-you-are-the-closer-you-are-to-God philosophy. Living here in Park City, UT with all of these very rich, well-educated Mormons, I feel like we are culturally in the epicenter of this particular bias. Dave, you grew up in the Potomac, MD area, where this same culture persists.”

“Yes and that is why my ward boundary was so long and narrow. The LDS church tried for many years to impose socioeconomic diversity. They eventually gave up.” Dave responded.

“Remember during the 2008 campaign? Barak Obama came to Park City for a big fundraiser. Do you still have that picture?” I asked.

“I might.”

“Barak Obama stopped on the side of the road and held an impromptu rally. I thought it was so cool that you and the boys happened to be there. We all felt so hopeful. I can’t tell you how I think the Republicans would spin things now if McCain had won. I bet they would say something about how he was fixing the debt even if our world was exactly the same. I can’t stomach it.”

“I think McCain would have done a fine job, perhaps even better. He would not have had all the Republicans pushing back and making things so hard. He probably would have gotten more done.” Dave continued.

“I agree.”

“Around the same time Obama came to Park City I saw Mitt Romney at church. I was still trying to go to church and be a part of the community. He was in the back playing with one of his grandchildren. I remember all of the church dudes walking up and high-fiving him like he was one of their frat brothers. I knew I could not go up and say hello. He was two feet away and I still felt less than. What is that?” I shared and then continued, “I could see he was a good man. I could see him hanging out in the back, a place I liked to wander when I was bored. He seemed like we could have something in common, but we didn’t. I know those people. I grew up with these people. It is the Mormon Aristocracy, an extension of our US Aristocracy. Don’t fool yourself into thinking a rags-to-riches-living-the-American-dream experience exists anymore. Even Al Gore has a strong pedigree. Mitt Romney’s dad was a politician. He was born into wealth. He was not called of God. He was born into good and fortunate circumstances.” I was on one.

And then Dave said, “It’s like Marianne. She is a single mom. She married a man from Africa. How different would her children’s lives be if they had a solid foundation, upbringing and educational opportunities like Obama had? Even his being black helped.”

“Just like Mitt’s being rich?” I cheekily shot back. “What would you call white-rich-affirmative action? Obama is not aristocracy, but he had opportunity and I see him more like me than I do Mitt. Mitt Romney and this crazy upper class makes me lose faith in our world and really in the American Dream.”

I have always been able to talk politics with Dave. Even when my ideologies seem aligned with others, I still find it hard to say. People are strong, their words on politics and religion even stronger. Long ago I realized that my words will not change anyone. I have always wondered why people come on strong, mean, and never appear willing to listen.

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Shutting Doors: my own self help

Me dying of heat at Joshua Tree National Park, June, 2012


I have no idea where the phrase, “keep someone at arm’s length,” comes from and believe me I looked it up. I do think that whoever thought it up was on to something. Boundaries, I never had them and I still have to remind myself to keep them.

As far as relationships go, I was taught at home and at church to love everyone unconditionally and that if I could unconditionally love that I was a really good person. Being good was very, very important to me. I always thought the phrases like, “as I have loved you, love one another,” confirmed that I should open my arms fully, no matter what.  The more damaged the other person appeared the more I opened my arms and tried desperately to fill holes that I had no place trying to fill.  I was not only fiercely determined to love them, I was determined to get others to love them too. Hey Jesus hung out with the prostitutes and street people, not the Pharisees and Sadducees, right?

I was loving and loving hard while never really thinking about the fact that if there is a God and if he does have a son, that their words are chock full of boundaries, conditions, limits and exclusions.   It did not compute.  I always heard the love everyone part and somehow missed the whole conditional part (hence my conflict with religion in general, a discussion for another day, if you want to hear it).  May I just mention that I also realize even bringing up religion here puts me in troublesome territory. We could totally dissect the appropriateness or inappropriateness of religious boundaries and rules, but again, that is not where I am heading with this, at least not today. Let me say, I sincerely do not care what you do or do not believe in. I was also raised in a religious household and no matter how I feel today those experiences will always be a part of who I am.

Yellowstone Warning Sign

Back on track, and may I also say, my brain was not registering the fact that there are better, more constructive and healthier ways to love.   In fairness to this story and at a very young age, I must admit that I finally did keep a boundary.   After our neighbors watched, did nothing and let their giant sheepdog eat through my rubber boot, even when I was asked to play with them, I somehow always managed to say, “no.”

Except for my neighbors and their big dog, I took the suggestion to love everyone to literally mean that I had to give of myself fully no matter what, even if the other person was not doing the same.  It took me a very long time to digest that my inability to keep boundaries was actually making me a lousy friend, daughter and sister.

Oddly enough I think part of the problem is that I am a visual learner. I could not see boundaries. I just heard what I was supposed to do and then inaccurately interpreted those words.  It was not until much later in life, when I was deep in the pit of my own despair, that a dear woman offered a suggestion. Hearing my pain, she, not knowing the full extent of my crappy boundary keeping, insightfully painted a picture. She said, “Beth. Shut your eyes. Notice the red flags. When you do, see yourself on one side of a door and the red flag on the other.  I hope you see a really heavy, strong door. Now, shut that door. If the red flag is pushing through or even knocking, then lock, dead bolt and barricade that door. Do what you need to do to keep that that red flag on the other side.”  Then she continued with something that caught me completely off guard.  “Now that the door is shut. I want you to pray for that person, bad thought or thing that is bringing you down.”

“What?” I thought.

She ignored my oppositional look and continued,  “If you don’t pray, chant. I do not care if you are religious or not. Pray. Keep praying until the negative energy is gone. Pray for healing. Pray for the highest and best for all involved. Pray until the negative energy is gone. Stop giving others so much power over you.”


Quickly, and maybe because she said it so directly, I realized that it was not the other person who was bringing me down. I was (and am) my own problem. It does not matter if the other person is crazy, terrible, mean or ugly. I get to choose. I get to choose how involved I want to be. Genius! I get to choose how sad or mad or crazy I want to be. If I do not want to answer the phone, I do not have to! Crazy, and I was getting it. I was getting that it was not about love or God or doing the right thing. It was simple. I get to choose and so do you. If you want to act crazy, I cannot fix you. If I bug you, then choose to forgive me or you don’t. It is not my problem. I am kind and I am good. I think 99.9% of us are.

I was seeing so clearly that I had been consumed with hurtful words and unkind actions. Oddly, I was not even mad at the other people. (Remember, I was taught to love?) I was just consumed with making it right.  I wanted my family right. I wanted my friendships right. I even wanted my crazy neighbor who put up crazy signs threatening us not to disturb her cats to be right. Crazy!

What seeing all of these visual boundaries helped me understand is that all of these issues were completely out of my control.  If I do not like how someone acts, I cannot change them. I can choose to get along or I can choose to leave. Likewise, if someone wants to stay mad at me, there is nothing I can do to make it right. Sure. Ok. Yes, I can apologize and yes, I can try and make amends. After that, if they won’t accept or forgive, I CANNOT FIX THEM!  When they tell me my apology does not meet their standards, well, that’s their problem. Believe me I have spent a lifetime thinking I had the power to make things right. I somehow believed if I tried hard enough, you would feel better. You would be ok.

Buffalo Warning Sign Yellowstone

This has not been an easy pattern to break. In the past six years, I have visually shut so many damn doors and have sent millions of healing prayers out into the universes. And what I finally get is that I was healing myself. I have no power over you. My love was this belief that I could make you right. I was wrong and I am very sorry. It was never about you, (and if you think I am talking about you, I probably am. Get in line. There are a lot of YOUs.)  And ironically it was always about love. I have spent this time shutting doors, learning to say, “no,” accepting that you are you and I can like it or not like it. Through it all I totally and completely like you all more than I did before.  I like you without “my loving” strings.  I have learned that I am ok being who I am. It has been tough to stand on these two feet and own it,

Yet totally and completely worth it!

Probably the greatest gift I can pass on to Kyle and Eli is that I have learned to like me and mostly, I have learned to start loving myself, the person I should have been loving all along.