Yesterday was remarkable.
The fact that yesterday was so amazing leaves me with an interesting conundrum–I’ve been trying all day to organize my thoughts and feelings about what I experiences in a way that feels not preachy and interesting. The problem with these life-changing revelations is that they tend to apply only to the life of the person who experienced it.
So, yesterday, my local NPR station broadcast an extraordinary interview with a man who is both openly gay, and a faithful member–and employee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can hear it here. This interview led me to Wilcox’s pet project–beyond the film discussed in the interview–The Empathy First Initiative. The EFI Facebook page had this video of a TEDtalk linked to it.
First off–why had no one told me about TED? It’s amazing.
Second, I realize I just linked an hour and twenty minutes of media that, while I found utterly fascinating and life changing, others may not. What follows is what I found apropos, if you don’t want to watch and listen to those links. Or, even if you do.
So, here’s how I understood all of this. In Randall Wilcox’s discussion on what it means to be a gay Mormon, he talked about embracing his whole self. When he accepted who and what he was, he became more spiritual–contrary to what Orthodox Mormons tend to believe about homosexuality, and what it means to be gay.
The other thing Wilcox discusses beautifully is empathy. Rather than looking at a person as an object–oh, he’s gay, or she’s a democrat, or their poor–he encourages us to look beyond, to see the person who has thoughts and feelings and ideas. To not dismiss someone as an abomination or a bigot, for instance, but to try to understand their thought process and the life-experiences that led them to those conclusions.
Brene Brown’s talk is on similar lines, in that she discusses empathy as well. But what stood out to me in her talk was the notion that when we numb the negative in our lives–the pain, the depression, the vulnerabilities–we numb everything. I think I’d subconsciously come to the same conclusion, at least in regards to my depression. When I started to open up about the fact that I am depressed, and stopped pretending that everything was fine, I started to feel better.
Brown also talks about vulnerabilities–we are all vulnerable. Everybody has something that makes them vulnerable, but it’s the people who embrace their vulnerabilities who thrive, who can love and be loved, while those who try to hide their vulnerabilities struggle, blame others, and spend their lives searching for meaning.
This makes perfect sense, and it’s something that I’ve begun to put into practice. I’ve been dredging up those deep, dark places within my soul and mind, examining everything and–and I think this is the important bit–not reburying those imperfections that make me vulnerable. I’ve realized that all the self-destructive things that I do are because I feel vulnerable, and I’m trying to either hide the vulnerability, or the shame that comes from being vulnerable.
But, by embracing who I am, the dark scary parts and all, I can become a better person, one who has the capacity to love herself, and by extension, others. I feel like I’m taking the first steps on an important journey.
Now, I do understand that this is all shiny and new, and in a couple of months, the shine will probably have worn off–this post is as much a reminder to me as anything. By getting the words down, it cements the way I’m thinking or feeling. I also know that it might be too much to ask that these few words might help someone else. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Right now, me becoming a better person is all I can ask for.
It came as a surprise to no one when, on Wednesday, Federal Judge Vaughn R. Walker threw out California Proposition 8 (2008) on grounds that it is unconstitutional.
This leaves me in an awkward situation. I agree with the ruling–Prop 8 violates the 14th amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection. I’m even going to say it also violates the 1st amendment, in that I believe that marriage is primarily a religious institution, and government shouldn’t restrict who can marry whom, as long as all parties are in agreement.
At the same time, I’m trying to be a good Mormon. Really. I understand the Church’s opposition to gay marriage, even if I can’t explain it to anyone who hasn’t been to the Temple. (Not because of anything that happens in the Temple, mind, it’s just that you must have a certain level of faith and understanding before you can enter into the Temple.) But…bad things tend to happen when the Church gets mixed up in politics. Just ask Brigham Young and James Buchanan.
In 2008, I disagreed with Prop 8, but kept my mouth shut, partly because I’m a coward and knew I was in the minority, being surrounded by Mormons who apparently have more faith in their leaders than I do, and mostly because I was wrestling with my own feelings. Truth told, a big part of my opposition to Prop 8 came straight from a California native co-worker of mine who would wander around the office talking about how gays were a blight on society, and how he wished he was back in California so he could vote on it. (I wished he was back in California too. He wouldn’t shut up about how much better California is than Utah. Seriously, dude, no one is forcing you to live here.)
He was so hateful and bigoted–which I can’t stand on anyone. When I see people like that, it’s a knee-jerk reaction of mine to support whatever it is they are so hateful and bigoted against. And now, I’m seeing the same bigoted reaction coming from people who should know better.
The biggest complaint that I’m hearing goes along the lines of “The people voted for this. The government shouldn’t be throwing out what the people voted for. We’re a democracy, for cryin’ out loud.”
Okay, Corianne, deep breath. Let’s take this in a calm and reasonable manner.
The whole point of the Constitution and the Judicial Branch of government is to prevent laws that are unjust. The reason that Justice Walker threw out Prop 8 is because he found it unconstitutional. In fact, California Attorney General Jerry Brown chose not to defend Prop 8 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (despite being named as a defendant) because he could see that it was unconstitutional. This wasn’t just some random guy deciding that he didn’t like the ruling.
The other thing, is the United States is not a democracy, it’s a constitutional republic. Citizens are not expected, or required to vote on every issue. There are times, when laws come up for popular vote–like California’s Proposition system, but those laws are not held sacrosanct simply because the people voted for them. They are subject to the same checks and balances as laws formed by the legislative branch.
We are far from hearing the end of this issue. I can guarantee that it will go all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. In the mean time, I’d like to echo a portion the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s official statement about the ruling–
“There is no doubt that today’s ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country, and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion.”
At least, I think I survived it. It was only at my folk’s house for a little bit, then we moved it down to the park. I left about the time the Easter egg hunt started. The party hasn’t moved back here, and I don’t know if it will.
But, I’ve survived. More importantly, Max survived without snapping at anybody (he really doesn’t like little hands, and some of those little hands haven’t been around dogs enough to realize that growling means “back off”.) And Megan, my aunt’s–gah, I don’t know how old she is, probably 16 or more, chow mixed survived–though she had a look of confusion on her face as to what this little black and white thing was, and why it kept barking at her.
I’m grateful for a good family that will let me go off and hide when things get too overwhelming. I’m a little upset with myself that I need too–I found myself wondering if I can’t handle my own extended family, how in the world can I handle in-laws. This could very well be an issue–I want a Mormon guy, and the stereotypes about Mormon’s having bigger families than the Catholics are true. (Again, part of the problem. I love my family, but–small doses. Please.)
No, I’m glad I got to see everyone, and I’m glad I was able to help out. I had more interaction this year than I did last year, so I guess I could consider it a personal success.
There’s this guy I knew years ago, and haven’t seen for ages. We recently became Facebook friends, and I was interested in finding out what he’s been up to.
While Kevin* never formally came out of the closet, his mannerism led me to believe that he was gay. Extremely gay. Like Jack on Will and Grace gay. I thought he was a great guy, but I know some of our mutual acquaintances were uncomfortable around him–mostly the “manly men” who wrestled in high school. Weird.
When I caught up with Kevin, he told me he was engaged. To a woman. I offered my sincere congratulations, but at the same time, I was a little concerned. Granted, Kevin lives several states away from me, and it’s been eight years since I’ve seen him–people change. I know that I’ve changed since I knew Kevin. But I can’t help worry about his intended. I hope that they both know what they are getting in to.
The thing is, even though I was sure Kevin was gay (I’m still not convinced otherwise), I’m not really surprised that he’s marrying a woman. See, Kevin is Mormon, like me, and the church puts a big emphasis on getting married. We believe that the family is the base unit of society, and, ideally, a family consists of a husband and wife, plus children. Life tends to be difficult for those of us living outside of this family unit.
It isn’t just Kevin–I’ve had a lot of things happen to me lately that have me thinking about gay rights, gay marriage in particular. I’m in an awkward situation–I love my religion, and I understand the stance that Salt Lake has taken on gay marriage, but I’m not sure I agree with it. What it boils down to is simply that I feel like marriage is primarily a religious sacrament (even though I know that many people are married by court officials, rather than pastors or priests) and it’s religion’s job, not the government’s, to tell us who we should or should not marry.
Now, I live not only in Utah, but also in Utah county, and most of the people I know are either Mormon or ex-Mormon. I’ve noticed something rather disturbing about members of the church–the people who I would peg as being gay are usually the most vocally homophobic. I have an ex-coworker, for example, who if I met him on the street of his native California, I would be surprised to learn that the beautiful woman he was with was his wife, and not simply a good friend. We worked together last year, during the Proposition Eight debacle, and it got to the point when I saw him coming in to my office, I’d put my earphones in and turn the music up as loud as I could, because I couldn’t stand to hear his high-pitched, lispey voice talking about how homosexuality was going to destroy society.
Maybe it’s just that my gaydar is broken.
There are those in the church who take the council and advice handed down from Salt Lake City and take it to extremes. We’re not supposed to drink coffee or tea? Then anyone who drinks a caffeinated soda is going to hell! It’s a good idea to have a year’s supply of food stored up in case of emergencies? Well, then I’m going to store two, no five years! AND build a bunker out in the desert. I don’t know how much the rampant homophobia following Proposition Eight had to do with the church releasing a statement decrying discrimination against homosexuals.
Sorry about the link, my intertubes have been clogged lately, and I got frustrated trying to find the statement on the church’s official site.
I really don’t know why this has been on my mind lately, and I debated writing about it on the blog, but I feel better for having done so. I don’t want this to turn into a bigoted hate-filled discussion on either side, so I’m disabling comments. (because, you know, I get so many comments). Please remember that this blog expresses my opinion, and shouldn’t beconfused with the opinion of, well, anybody else–unless I also provide a link to prove that I’m not just pulling other people’s opinion’s out of the air.
*Not his real name.
We got perhaps six inches of snow yesterday, enough to seriously impede Max and Lulu in our evening walk. There was enough snow that a tow truck, that came to tow a car that was illegally parked got stuck, and the driver had to call for backup, to get both himself and the car out. Most of my neighbors were cheering for the snow, but the illegally parked car blocked the snowplow from clearing half of the main road in the complex.
I love the time after a good storm–granted, it’s better in the summer than in the winter. The air is clear, the world is silent and beautiful. As far as this year goes, it’s been especially nice–usually, right after a big snow storm, the temperature drops significantly, so it doesn’t get above 20°. This year, the big storms have been followed by a period of relative warmth. While all of you on the east coast were complaining about how cold this winter has been, I’ve been going outside in January, in Northern Utah, in sandals and without a coat.
The problem is today has been so peaceful, that I haven’t wanted to do anything–including reading or watching TV. Max got me to play with him for a bit, then he decided that he would rather cuddle. I made it to the grocery store–a mistake, really. Mormon’s take the “keep the Sabbath Day holy” thing pretty seriously, but procrastinate like the rest of the world, so grocery stores on Saturday nights are always crowded. And that’s about all I’ve done today.
This apathy is a little strange–because, really, I’m not feeling depressed or anxious. And maybe I was just feeling the peace of the day after a big storm. Or maybe I was being lazy and not wanting to clean off my car.
I did get some good news today. I’ve been stressed because I thought my unemployment was going to run out in a few weeks, but I did some math, and I’ve got a few months. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to let up on the job search, though, and today I thought of a few new directions/industries that I could look into. I’ve almost decided that I’m going to have to do the retail thing, which, I’ve done before and I’m okay with. I just really don’t want a job where I’d have to get a food handler’s permit. I fully acknowledge, though, that I might have to forget that last bit of pride that I’m holding on to.
I went shopping at Wal-Mart the other day. Don’t judge me! It’s the closest place to my house to buy food! Actually, no, the closest place to my house were I can buy food is the Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop. And while Krispy Kreme is delicious, you can only eat like 10 of them before you get sick to your stomach (not that I know from personal experience. Um, yeah.) so they’d be kinda hard to live on.
Anyway, while I was shopping, I spotted something I hadn’t seen in perhaps 12 years–the stereotypical Mormon mom.
A quick note. I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not only am I a lifelong member, I actually made a conscious decision regarding my membership. The gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed by Joseph Smith has kept me sane–well, sane-ish, and literally alive. You will never hear me mock the church, its doctrine, or its leaders.
Mormon culture on the other hand, especially Utah Mormon culture, the crazy stuff we Mormons do that either has no relation to the gospel, or is only marginally connected, deserves to be mocked and I do so at every opportunity.
Anyway, back to this woman. I recognized her for who she was right away. She had the biggest bangs I’ve seen in over a decade, and the rest of her hair was pulled back into a tight French braid. In fact, after spotting her hair, I had to look twice to make sure she wasn’t a polygamist. (She wasn’t. Her clothes were boughten, and involved slacks.) She spoke in a sweet, soft voice, and led a flock of children with names like Brigham, Eliza and Nephi. Just looking at her, you knew that she made the best cookies on the block.
I spotted her, unsurprisingly, in the bakeware isle. I immediately made a detour from my planned shopping route to examine her more closely. I pulled my phone out and pretended to text, in hopes that I could get a picture, but Abinadi spotted me eying his mom, and kept giving me the stink eye.
Seeing how it’s New Years Eve, I should probably post a list of resolutions and/or a retrospective of the year and/or decade, but we’re all sick of that, right?
For me, 2009 can be boiled down to: I lost my job, and have spent the last 6 months looking for a new one. I gained a nephew, E. I fell in love with a man that I have no access to, and decided that being feminine isn’t as stupid as I previously though. I changed anti-depressants, and the world suddenly isn’t as bleak a place as all that, except when I can’t sleep.
As for resolutions, I don’t believe in them. Rather, I believe that people make them, and give them an honest effort–for about 6 weeks. I just don’t bother anymore.
I hope everybody has big, fun plans for tonight. Personally, I plan on staying home and peeling a little dog off my face after she hears fireworks, and yelling at the other little dog when he barks at the revelry outside.
Anyway, here’s hoping that 2010 is better than 2009 was, and that the ’10s will be better than the ’00s. It can’t really be worse can it? Can it?