What’s In Your Testimony?

My friends over at Feminist Mormon Housewives have a new post up that asks, “What’s your testimony?”  They’re posting a new question each month and inviting their readers to respond.  At the end of the year they hope to have a good picture of what’s going on in the feminist/progressive/liberal/queer Mormon community that we all make up.  I’ve decided to participate in the activity because I am in an exciting place spiritually and I think it will help me define some things that are up in the air for me right now.

I thought it would be fun to post the questions and my responses here, but I keep thinking about a conversation Honey and I had yesterday.

As I have begun my quest for truth and knowledge about God, I’ve wondered if it was necessary for me to write a letter or call my (LDS) family members to tell them I don’t believe what they do any more.  I’ve wrestled with this for over two years – how, what, or if I should tell them what’s going on with me.  Then I had a couple of thoughts that make me thankful I had the wisdom to sit on this question for a time.

My younger self was more self-centered and assumed that people wanted to know these things about me and would overshare on the regular.  Sallygirl today knows that sure, my family and close friends do want to know these things going on in my life!  But they don’t want to find out in a pre-prepared statement that just shows up in their inbox one day.  Just yesterday it came to me that it’s actually pretty arrogant of me to randomly announce or give a statement to my family and close friends about my deeply personal religious/spiritual beliefs, without being asked.  It’s like when a celebrity publicly announces their divorce/bankruptcy/addiction/sexuality.  They make these hugely awkward public announcements; and then everybody feels weird like when you walk in on your parents “taking a nap”.

The other thought that came to me was, actually, I do still believe in a lot of the same things my LDS and christian family and friends do!  I have a different perspective than I did before, and yes; there are some huge things that the LDS Church teaches that I no longer believe or interpret differently for myself as an individual.  I’ve done a lot of searching and praying and I know that my truth is only for me.  I’m not going to be concerned if my truth doesn’t fit you, because I know you.  You and I, we are the same.  We’re all here on this big rock, doing the best we can given our individual circumstances, and all we want is to be happy.

I’m here to tell you, I am happy.

When I look at the big picture, I feel nothing but peace, joy, and hope for the future.  I live with mental illness and sometimes it makes it hard for me to maintain those feelings, but everything about my life is so good how can I feel otherwise?  I don’t often talk about the positive parts that come from having mental illness, but there are some.  They are few, but they’re there!  Even though my intense feelings are usually the crappy ones, the good ones are also just as strong.

I love learning from others.  If you have concerns for me, let’s talk.  If you have questions about my beliefs, ask me!  But don’t go through my husband or children.  I have my own voice, and it doesn’t sound like them.

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The Priory of Sion, Sons of Liberty, The Illuminati, and Other Secret Combinations

Secret societies have been around since the beginning of time.  (Didn’t you see Aronofsky’s “Noah”?)  We sort of joke about them mostly being for nefarious purposes, but let’s face it – the truth is boring when it comes to these kinds of groups.  It’s way more fun to speculate about conspiracy theories between governments and religions committing heinous sins to dupe and control the general public, or murdering someone, covering things up, all kinds of crimes to right the wrongs in the world.  It’s fascinating, right?  The reality couldn’t be more far from the truth, though.  I know, because I’m in one!!!

I belong to a secret group of elite people on the internet.  Some of them I know in real life, others are online only.  But we meet together for one purpose, and one purpose only.  To have a safe place to be completely ourselves, warts and all, no matter what and no judgement.  We give each other in copious amounts what we aren’t getting anywhere else in our lives.  Love, kindness, support, strength, building each other up, holding each other in our pain, laughter, raging against whatever (together)… It is seriously the best thing ever, and I don’t know how I got along in life before they invited me in.  Don’t get me wrong, I have some amazing, close, and very personal friends.  People I also couldn’t live without.  People that have kept me alive for so long!  But the other people?  The people in my secret group?  Things that we now know about each other we will carry to our graves.  We would rather betray everything else than tell the things we reveal in our group!  These people, we understand each other SO WELL; and knowing that I belong to this amazing, incredible, awesome group of people?  Gives me a kind of peace nothing else could.

So you see?  Not all secret combinations are bad.

And you people in my group?  I LOVE YOU FOREVER ❤

COFFEE RULES!!!

I read an article from The Art of Manliness that my brother posted on FB, about being caffeine-free and the health benefits that come from it.  (Caffeine is BAD, don’tcha know?)  As someone who consumes beverages with caffeine on a regular basis, this article gave me pause.  While I was reading, I could think of actual research that pointed to the opposite of what the writer was saying.  It really got me irritated for a moment, and I began to furiously Swype out a blog post on my phone in response (we upgraded to Windows 10 last weekend, and there was an… issue… that has since resolved itself, but for the duration I was unable to access the internet thru my laptop and had only my phone to get online!).  Luckily, I was passing out tired while writing so I emailed it to myself to finish this morning.  Now that I’ve had overnight to marinate about it and put some more coherent thought into it, I’ve examined my reasons for reacting the way I did.  I’ve completed my morning routine, which included (wait for it) COFFEE and some time out in naturehood, and now I’m sitting down at the kitchen table in my sunshiny kitchen ready to give a more mature response.

At first, the article felt like a personal attack.  I love me some beverages with varying amounts of caffeine in them.  Coke, diet Coke, Coke Zero, Mexican Coke, Mtn. Dew, Diet Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and last and best… COFFEE!!!!  I hadn’t experienced any of the adverse effects the “manly” article cited.  In fact, I had experienced quite the opposite!  (I would like to add at this point that I am neither pro- nor anti-caffeine; I am, however, pro- you-do-you-and-I’ll-do-me.)  It takes a lot to get a person through the day.  Millions of choices that can make your day go either way, and you never know which direction any one thing’ll go.  What works for one is an unmitigated disaster for another.  It was at this point that I dialed the interior drama down a notch and reminded myself that my brother sharing this article was not a commentary on my choices; it was not him being passive aggressive or looking down his nose saying “hey, look at how much healthier I am than you”, it was just him sharing something with people he cares about.  Something he’s done (or doing?) that makes sense/is working for him, and he wants us to know so we can benefit from this knowledge.  That’s what you do when you gain knowledge, you share it with others so you can all be smart!

(See how mature that was?  I just adulted!  I have just given you a premium example of how to adult, and well.  You are welcome.  Now go forth and do likewise.)

Now that I am inspired by my brother sharing something that works for him instead of feeling like a rejected loser; I would like to share how I feel about something that is the opposite of what works for him, but works incredibly well for me, and is about coffee (which has caffeine) instead of just straight up caffeine consumption.  In other words, my opinions do not include sodas or energy drinks; which are bad for you for numerous reasons, the least of which is the amount of caffeine in them. (Except Coke, of course.)

Here goes:

It is SO important to have things in life that give us joy! We all need a reason to wake up each day.  Something to look forward to. A raison d’etre.  One of those things, for me, is coffee.

I.  LOVE.  COFFEE!!!

I love it sooooooooo hard!! It has been recommended to me by my doctor for reasons. I jumped at this news with great joy; as I have always felt euphoric at the scent of freshly brewed coffee (at any time of day!) and coffee-flavored treats all my life.  Here are a few articles* that disprove some of the negative effects of coffee and share some of the positive benefits, of which I am a benefactor:

The Case for Drinking As Much Coffee As You Like from the Atlantic

6 Healthy Reasons to Keep Loving Coffee from Health Magazine

11 Reasons You Should Drink Coffee Every Day from the Huffington Post (my favorite being number five)

and just for funsies, an article published by the Harvard School of Public Health about how people who drink two to four cups of java each day are less likely to commit suicide than those who don’t drink coffee.

You’re all more or less familiar with how my life goes. It is HARD.  It is beyond comprehension for the average bear to know how hard it is for me to wake up every day and not want to die for one irrational reason or another.  Since I started drinking coffee, my mornings have changed dramatically.  One of my very favorite times of day is when I get home from doing the drop off at school.  I brew myself a cup or three in my French press (or more in my new Mr COFFEE!) and sit down at the table to open up my laptop and start the day; while I sip this amazingly rich and velvety smooth beverage from one of my ultra special, use-it-and-die coffee mugs.

Or same scenario, except for instead of sitting down to do internets I go outside and sit in my Adirondack chair with my sea turtle pillow on my incredibly awesome (but fake) lawn; the smallest of breezes stirring in the trees, and the birds taking attendance of who survived the night and didn’t get eaten by feral cats.  I take in a deep breath and contemplate the universe, or what I’m going to do that day… I just sit and marinate and enjoy the good feelings until my drink is gone; and then I putter inside and get to going.

The steam will be rising as I bring it in close for a sip; and as the warmth glides down my throat and into my chest, my heart feels a spark of life.  All of a sudden, I feel smitten with everything I see! This best-feeling-ever permeates my morning and colors everything I do with a rosy tint.  The corners of my mouth slowly turn into a most contented smile, and a song starts in my head about sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

I drink coffee to feel great.  I do it because it makes me feel happy inside (as well as doctor reasons).  It gives me the courage and strength I need to face another day of living with oversensitivity in a world full of hyperactivity.  That might seem incredibly shallow or silly to you, but it works for me and that’s all that matters.  I hope with all my heart that you have something in your life that gives you this feeling because we all deserve to feel good and capable, even if it’s only for the 30 minutes it takes to drink a steaming cup of joe.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

*Note:
It’s easy to do, to find articles and blog posts that validate your point of view no matter what it is.  There is research, both real and fake, that promotes or shuns just about everything you could ever think about! EVER.  That’s just something to think about whenever you read anything written by anyone that either supports or destroys your POV on the subject.

Radical Self Respect

In February my OB/GYN’s assistant emailed me that it’s time for a pap screening.  Yippee!  Just the thing all women want to hear.  Except last time I visited my lady doctor, it was a disaster.

God, through some scientists, developed this amazing thing called the Mirena IUD.  Most women use this as birth control, but I like it for an extra special reason.  NO PERIODS!! (Periods are from the devil)  It’s great because it just sits there in your body doing its thing.  You don’t have to remember to take a pill at the same time every day.  Every 5 years you get a new one and you’re good to go!

I really like(d) my gyno.  At first I was a little weirded out because he’s a dude, but he was so kind and professional I just got over it.  At my last appointment (when it was Mirena swapping time) he looked at my chart and with a little distress in his voice mentioned I had gained some weight since my last visit.  Yup, I had.  Not really surprised.  My mom had moved in with us and I was stress eating a lot.  It wasn’t that much though, maybe 10-15 lbs (which ok, on a normal person is a lot but on me you can’t really tell the difference).  He then proceeded with the exam and procedure, which ended up being the most painful thing I’ve experienced, next to drug-free childbirth.  I left feeling vulnerable and humiliated.  I was in so much pain I could barely walk, and by the time I got home was feeling really violated.  Like my friendly doctor had turned into a monster and tortured me for fun.

A lot has happened since the last time I saw the lady doctor.  I know I’ve gained more weight, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking “Hmmm…. how long has it been since my last appt?  I think I have to get that Mirena swapped out again soon… not really looking forward to that.”  It wasn’t even on my radar that I needed a pap screen.   Since I’m turning 40 they’ll finally let me have a mammogram so I know I need to schedule that, but lady doctor visit? Nah.

Until the assistant emailed me in February that it’s time to be violated screened again.

I tried ignoring the email.  I said to myself that it’d be a cold day in hell before I go back to that doctor again.  Plus, all my other screens have been normal so I’m probably fine this time too.  But then, my regular doctor emailed me a month later telling me the same thing.  Time to see the lady doc again!  Dang… these Kaiser doctors are persistent!  I mentally hit the IGNORE button.

Last month I got a recorded message saying “Make a friggin’ appointment why don’tcha??”  Ok, not really, but I did get a recorded message hounding me to come in for the pap screen.  I was starting to feel like someone over there must be really bored if they had all this time to devote to little ol’ me and my cervix!  And then I totally hung up and said “Nopity nope nope.  Not gonna do it.”

Two days ago a live person called.  I felt trapped.  I literally had nowhere to hide and I didn’t want to burden this poor assistant with why I didn’t want to come in.  So I made the appointment, and I’ve been dreading it ever since.

I decided to email Dr. Lady Bits about how I’m feeling.  He really is a good doctor, and I don’t want to go through the hassle of finding a new one.  So I put on my big girl panties and this is what I said:

 

I’m concerned about my upcoming visit for a pap test. The last time I saw you to have my IUD removed & replaced you commented that I had gained some weight since the last visit. It made me feel very vulnerable & insecure & like you would rather not have me as a patient. Whether it was because of my size making the procedure difficult or because of a subconscious attitude toward me, I left that visit in a lot of physical pain & feeling like I had been violated. I spent the rest of that day & 2 more curled up in bed it was so painful. I’ve known I needed this pap test since your assistant emailed 3 months ago but have been reluctant to schedule it because once again, I have gained weight & fear exposing myself to another traumatic visit. I know it can be difficult & unpleasant to work with someone my size. I feel great shame knowing how repulsed you must be. I’m telling you this because I think you are a good doctor & want you to understand the power of your words. Sincerely, Mrs. Sallygirl

 

That’s all I had room for.  They only give you 1000 characters.  There was some serious editing, and I had to use the “&” every time I would have just used the word “and”; which makes me feel so… teenaged and twitterspoken.  I wish I could have told him that he took an oath to do no harm, but he harmed me.  The way he treated me prevented me from seeking medical care that could potentially save my life.  I felt angry that because someone saw me as less than human (or at least made me feel that way), that I couldn’t get the medical care that we pay nearly $2k/month for.  I felt angry for myself, for others like me, and for other people who are not treated with dignity and respect (because they are the wrong race, or the wrong gender, or gay, or trans) because of someone’s prejudices.

And then I felt gratitude.

Because, I am surrounded by strong women who every day show me how to be brave and how to have radical self respect.  I took the lessons I learned from them and I applied it to myself.  I spoke up and took control of the situation, and I’m still going in for that blasted appointment.  I hope that when you encounter a situation like mine in your own life that you will remember that no one is better than anyone else and that you are just as worthy of the dignity and respect you give to others.

Rock on, my friends!

To Women Everywhere On Mother’s Day

I know Mother’s Day isn’t until Sunday but I also know that, for some, Mother’s Day is not a happy day.  I hope you’ll read this essay that someone shared with me, and that you’ll find something to take with you this Sunday that speaks to you and lets you there’s a place for everyone on this wide continuum of mothering:

 

“To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.”