Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Big, Gay Doubt

The issue of gay marriage is certainly in the forefront of all of our thoughts lately, with it spattered across Facebook, CNN and Fox. I'm about to reveal my feelings on the issue, which can only be controversial in my diverse group of friends. I'm not doing this because I feel like the world needs to know my opinion on the matter (I'm positive that you don't). I'm doing it because it has raised questions inside of me having to do with faith, organized religion, compassion, and the pure love of Christ, and I'm sure that it has for many of you as well. I'm not looking for an argument on the issue of gay marriage to follow here, but rather a discourse about faith and obedience, and their place in a church. This is my blog, so I'm the boss, so let's try to play nice, okay? Let us all speak kind words to each other. Your unkind words won't be published here.

I support gay marriage. I have people who I love who feel that their happiness depends on their relationships being seen as valid in society, and I completely understand where they are coming from. I feel that all people deserve to be treated with kindness and equality. I believe that gay parents make just as good of parents as anyone else. I actually feel that gay and other adoptive parents may have a little advantage in the parenting area because they wanted their children so badly, and struggled so hard to get them into their families. I don't feel like it's up to me, or my church, to decide what kinds of love are more important than others. I love all kinds of love, and I think any decision our country makes to bring more love into it is a good one, especially in these troubled times.

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I'm a Mormon, and they support my actions towards gays in their official statement which says, "Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let's not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender." 

They have also said, "We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason.  Such actions simply have no place in our society."

Works for me! This puts my actions directly in line with the teachings of my church. Where I am a little off line is in my attitude towards gay marriage. The church has said, "We firmly support the divinely appointed definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman because it is the single most important institution for strengthening children, families and society." I agree that strong, committed marriages strengthen children, families and society. I just don't see why a gay marriage can't provide this strength as well as a straight one can. Two parents, any two parents, who love their kids and teach them to be kind are qualified to lead the next generation, right? But the church has asked us to support traditional marriage, and to oppose gay marriage in cases like Prop. 8 in California.

Here's the question that I've been asking myself: Is the Church wrong in this case? Are we going to look back in 20 years and see this as a simple Civil Rights issue that the LDS church missed the mark on? If this turns out to be case, I will still be a devout Mormon. I have a received a witness of my faith too many times in my life to throw the baby out with the bath water. I will be understanding that, while the gospel of Christ is perfect, all men, all organizations, and all religious institutions make mistakes sometimes, and I will promptly forgive my church for this misunderstanding and continue on in my faith. I will have acted as they've directed me to and I won''t have any regrets because of it.

Here's the second question: Is the Church right in this case? Are we going to look back in 20 years and see that legalizing gay marriage really has eroded the foundation of families and that our country is in worse shape than ever because of it? If this is the case I will feel sufficiently humbled and chastised for my lack of faith and disobedience. I'll have some serious reflecting to do about my willingness to follow the prophet in these tumultuous last days because, even though I may not have erred in action, I will have been deficient in the feelings of my heart.

My quick perusal of Facebook tells me that I'm not the only member of the LDS church who is questioning their stance and supporting gay marriage. In fact, I seem to be in the majority. Does this mean we're all having some kind of mini apostasy here? Are we standing up for what's right in the face of authority, or are we allowing the opinions of the world to carefully creep in and damage our faith? In the separation of the wheat from the chaff, are we the wheat right now, or are we the chaff? I really couldn't tell you...

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Law of "It Hurts When Grown-Ups Fall Down"

You know how when you're a little kid, and you fall down, it doesn't even phase you?  As long as your mom isn't watching, you just get back up and continue playing.  Or, if your mom is watching, you run up to her and cry for a while, beg a character licensed bandaid off of her, and then return to what you were doing, completely unaware of your injuries.  Yeah, well, trust me, this no-pain phenomenon of childhood wears off sometime during adolescence, and it is not a good idea to test this theory.

I am blessed by my Father in Heaven with many talents, but neither grace nor coordination are among them.  This fact doesn't usually bother me.  My dad tells me I throw like a girl, but I don't hear him.  I'm  too busy doing a rhythmless happy dance because the ball came within six square feet of him.  I occasionally bang my kid's heads on the door frames as I carry them through the house, and I feel really bad about it, but I forgive myself pretty quickly because I'm a pretty good mommy otherwise, and they seem to be pretty smart in spite of the bonks.  I have a hard time staying in my lane while driving down the road, but I haven't had an accident in many years, so I still venture out on a daily basis.  I figure no one's good at everything, and I don't let it get to me.

Friday was a day that will go down in history as the day I most regretted the combination of my lack of grace and coordination, and the law of "It Hurts When Grown-Ups Fall Down."  I suppose I fall down pretty often when compared with most grown ups, but I usually grab on to the person next to me, or some furniture, or put my hands out in front of me and break my fall.  On Friday afternoon, I was picking my way among the tide pools at Sunset Cliffs, with a baby on my hip, when I slipped on a perfectly dry rock.  I couldn't let go of the baby to balance or break my fall, so I just slid right to the ground, landing squarely on my left elbow.

There were dozens of people I didn't know at the tide pools that day, and they all turned their gazes like an alert flock of birds in my direction, to see me laying on the ground with a screaming baby in my arms.  My friend's husband ran over and grabbed my baby and comforted her, and my brother came to help me up.  The problem is, when you bang your elbow really hard, it hurts REALLY bad.  I haven't been exposed to such an intense amount of pain too many times in my life, so I didn't realize that one of my possible reactions to it is to throw up everywhere, which is exactly what I did while the entire city of San Diego looked on in horror.  I was so, so, so embarrassed!  For real!

So, once I was done ralphing, I hiked back up the cliff and sent my kids to their grandpa's house, while my brother took me to the emergency room.  There I received a tetanus shot and two shiny stitches to compliment my shame.  If I were a little kid, I would have been back in action by the time I left the ER.  But I'm a bonafide grown-up now, so I threw up twice more on the way home, and I haven't had a good night of sleep in three days.  Sheesh!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mormons Who Say the "F" Word

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article on KSL about the "toxic perfectionism" that is plaguing the women of my community.  Although I found the article a little unfounded as far as research goes, I did feel that it rang true, at least partially, based on what I've witnessed among my friends and loved ones.  The article said that LDS (Mormon) women feel pressure to be perfect, or at least a good as their neighbors, and that this causes depression among them, because they can't live up to their own expectations, or what they perceive are the expectations of the Church and everyone else.  I suspect that this is not only an LDS affliction, but one that women in general seem to suffer from at one time or another.  Perhaps it is more acute here in Utah Valley, because many people here share the same values and belief system, and feel like they know what their neighbors and friends expect from them, based on those common beliefs.

I write web content for a couple of drug rehabilitation facilities, and around the same time that I read the article on toxic perfectionism, I read one about the growing meth addiction epidemic in our area, in which women hold the uncommon position of leading the pack in new users.  Among the top reasons for beginning to use meth, women listed weight loss and more energy.  Basically, some women are feeling so much pressure to be a better person, that they turn to illicit drug use to accomplish this.

I want to clarify that the LDS Church's take on perfection and self improvement as outlined by one of its leaders, Joseph B. Worthlin is, "We don't have to be perfect today.  We don't have to be better than someone else.  All we have to do is be the very best we can."  That sounds doable, doesn't it?

So, if the Church isn't putting pressure on us to be perfect, where is the pressure coming from?  I'm sure that it's coming from our inner selves more than from anywhere else.  The judgement that we may be feeling from our neighbors isn't coming from our neighbors at all.  It's really coming from ourselves, from our own sense of competition and lack of self esteem.

I think the answer to this problem is to really consider what we value in a friend, and then concentrate on being that type of person for others.  Do I only want to be friends with ladies who have a clean house?  No, I want to be friends with ladies who don't mind sitting at the bar and chatting with me while I get my sink full of dishes under control.  Do I only want to be friends with ladies who are thin? No, I want to be friends with ladies who make me feel good about myself, and who feel good about themselves, as well.  Do I only want to be friends with ladies who manage their entire life with quiet composure, who never raise their voice or lose their temper?  No, I want to be friends with ladies who have a sense of humor, say a curse word once in a while, and are a little bit overwhelmed when their kid pees their pants in public.  

I want friends who I can feel comfortable around, who I can be myself around, and who I can be close to through our common, everyday insanities.  I like people with visible imperfections because they make me feel normal and happy.  I don't think this is as much a case of misery loves company, so much as I like getting to know people on a real level.  I like to know my friends so I can love them all the way, and a person who appears to be perfect is surely a person who I don't know very well yet.  

Does this mean that we don't need to strive for self improvement?  Does this mean that I should start dropping the "F" bomb every time I'm frustrated?  No, it just means that I should do my best and cut myself a little slack.  My life is crazy, and sometimes I come up short, but it's nothing to develop a meth addiction over.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Body Image Issues

 I don't know what my problem is, but the generally squishy state of my body has really been getting to me lately.  Logically, I know I'm lucky.  I have a strong, capable body.  I am able to exercise every day, as well as complete all the various tasks that keep my life running.  I sleep well at night, I rise refreshed in the morning (most of the time), and I spend my days happy and free from any signs of depression or anxiety.  I look at these pictures of myself and I recognize that I'm just an average sized woman- not very skinny but not very fat.  But, when I look in the mirror, I am more often than not dissatisfied.  I see blemishes, bulges and gray hair.  I know this is just part of the female condition, but I sincerely wish to eliminate it.

The thing that's really bothering me is that this negative self image is not my natural disposition.  Historically I'm a confident, pretty girl who doesn't spend too much time worrying about her appearance.  It's only since I had a couple babies that my self image has hit a rough spot.  My belly is no longer flat, and probably never will be.  The acne that sprung up when I was pregnant with my first baby has taken up permanent residence on my face.  These are annoyances, but they didn't really get to me until after I had my second baby.  I had some health problems after her that left my heart and lungs a little slower than they use to be, and I think this may be the root of my problem.  I can't really do things the same way I use to do them.  I can't work out REALLY hard, I can't stay up very late, and I can't chat with my girlfriends and jog at the same time.  I can do so, so many other things, but for some reason, I'm stuck on the things I can't do.  I know, ridiculous, right?

I'd like to say I'm making a commitment right now to stop worrying about these silly things, right here and now, but how does one do that?  How do I just forget about something that's been picking at me for months?  I thought that taking good care of myself (eating right and exercising) would be the answer, but not so much.  I think this is a problem I need to solve in my brain, not in my body, but how?  I know what the standard answers are here:  Pray.  Show more gratitude.  Don't worry.  I hear you, and I'm on it.  I guess slow but steady will win the race?

Sorry for the serious post.  I'll be funny next week.  :)