Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why I Am Not Fair to the Mormons

I received an email two days ago from someone I admire and love. It was in regards to my thoughts on being religion free that I posted last time on the blog (see link).
He writes:

Dear D'Arcy, 

"I read your blog post from last week celebrating 5 years emancipation from the church...You talk about having a rebirth, but you throw a lot of dirt on the church in the process.  When you imply that you couldn't laugh, take walks, eat cupcakes, or see Broadway shows before you left the church, or that in the church the only things you could really hope for were a husband and a family, or that in the church God expects you to be a polygamist wife you are distorting the truth and simply not telling the whole story. 

You're casting blame on the church.  But, I take walks, laugh, eat cupcakes, and watch Broadway plays (albeit not on Broadway, having never been to New York).  Lots of church members find swimming or painting or dance or entrepreneurship or drama to be inherent in their faith--expressions of identity that go beyond marriage and family.  That there are a lot of people in the church who are insensitive and inexperienced goes without saying. That you struggle with the church is also apparent.  But saying that the church is totally at fault is not telling the whole story and doesn't seem fair."

After thinking a bit about this I have decided to respond publicly--cause, well, I want to:

First of all, Mormons are AWESOME dancers!

Second of all--when the LDS church is fair to women, then maybe I will be fair to the LDS church (bam! yeah, take that mature answer!) But honestly folks, that's not really an answer. The real answer is, "um, huh?"

So, here is my best explanation (with some help from an articulate friend who talked through some of this with me this week) on why I am seemingly not fair to the Mormon church.

In a distant land....far, far away...called The Matrix (beat!), when I was still Mormon, every small action of every day, every small act, was informed and shaped by being Mormon. Every moment was full of little moral dilemmas. Should I have done that? Watched that? Thought that? Said that? Worn that? Kiss that with my tongue as long as I did?

In this land, I would not have enjoy a naked Daniel Radcliffe in the Broadway play Equus (stage seating too, I might add) the way I do now because now I do not have any guilt over watching naked people on stage do some acting. That fabulous play was not bound by my Mormon fear of choosing and liking the wrong thing and offending God.  

And cupcakes! Sure, I enjoyed them as a Mormon....BUT....

What about cupcake made with alcohol or coffee? Those are da bomb-diggity! But, even buying a cupcake was an event full of Matrix thoughts: "Should you have born your testimony to that person who asked you about your Utah driver’s license?  Did you bring along pass-along cards or Books of Mormon?  And if not, why?  Are you the clean, bright, happy, healthy representative you ought to be of the Church? "

These are just small examples of the questions floating around in my head as I lived my daily life as a Mormon. A constant barrage, a discourse of inadequacy and guilt--peppered with pats on the back and feelings of marked achievement (look at that man with the smoking addiction! Look at that man with the beer! Look at the women with the tank top! I am not like that, and that is good.)

And while my emancipation took a while to achieve, it was worth the struggle. Why? Well, my friend described it this way, there "is this amazing feeling of peace I feel. There is an enormous, beautiful, quiet place in my heart that never existed there before.  I know I am capable of making good decisions.  I’m not so afraid of words or actions or thoughts anymore.  I’m not so afraid.  And that makes everything, EVERYTHING, better."

To make this briefer--

At one point in time, the church infused everything in my life (demanded to infuse my life). Thus, the church has a major responsibility to answer for the anxiety and fear and guilt that also infused my life.  That is not to say that there are no good things about the Mormon church.  That is simply to acknowledge that my experience in the church was, in fact, not chiefly a positive in my life. And that is the truth. 

And when I speak my truth--then why does the word "fair" come in to play?

Has the church been fair to my truth? 

Does the church acknowledge each Mormon woman struggling to find a worth outside of the confines it has prescribed?  

Is the church fair when it constantly presents talks and lessons and activities and attitudes that make it crystal clear that without a husband and without children a woman is incomplete.  Imperfect.  Sad.  Yearning.  Waiting.

Has the church been fair when it funds campaigns about Prop 8?

Has the church been fair and truthful when presenting its past?

Has the church been fair when choosing what color of skin was worthy to hold the priesthood? What gender even?

Has the church been fair?

Maybe to some it has (if you're a white guy, you've got it made). Maybe to others it hasn't (having a vagina doesn't help your case much). 

But what I do know is that I really do not care if I paint the Mormon church in a light that its members find unpleasing and unfair.

And that is the true freedom I have gained. 

And that, friends, is why I sing and dance and eat my cupcakes with more zest and zeal than I did the first 30 years of my life.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Five Years of Being Religion-Free

It has now been five official years since I left the LDS church.

Honestly, the first two years were hell both socially and mentally. I had a lot of guilt. I had a lot of loneliness. And I was constantly being bombarded by people who cared for me telling me that I was making the biggest mistake of my eternal life.

The third and fourth years were better because my new way of viewing life started overriding my old fundamentalist thought patterns (with great, great effort).

And, the fifth year (which just completed last week) was so outrageously phenomenal that I want to go back and give the D'Arcy of 2007 a really big hug and tell her "it gets better."

It was on my 30th birthday, September 15, 2007, that I woke up in New York City and said, "enough is enough." I was scared. I was full of self doubt. I was worried about what this meant for my future. I had no idea how to form a life if I was not focused on getting married in the Mormon temple. I had bitterness to work through.  I felt like I had wasted 30 years in an institution that was not meant for me. I had a lot of regret. I had a lot of insecurities. I felt like as I questioned, I would most likely be led back to the LDS church because it was "true".  But that never happened. And I found myself moving (not drifting, that's what I had done the decade before) towards the world. The world without Mormons.

The last five years have opened my mind in so many ways that have helped me see the world as a friendly, loving, accepting, kind, forgiving place with really good wine. I like to say "The world" because anyone who has taken part in the LDS church knows what negative connotations those two words can have.  We were told from the time that we could crawl that the "world" is evil, dangerous and will lure us away from the righteous gospel path. And, well, since I now no longer go to church, I occasionally drink wine and coffee, and I decide what spiritual power I can be endowed with (and do not leave it to the old men to decide for me), then--really, by their standards, I guess what they believe about the world is true.

Each year I go to New York City on my birthday and celebrate the re-birth I was blessed to have at the age of 30. I enjoy myself. I treat myself to the things I love. I make goals for the upcoming year. I reflect on the year I just finished. I laugh. I walk a lot. I eat cupcakes. I see Broadway shows. And, I talk to God. This amazingly beautiful God that I relate to in ways that were never possible when I was part of the LDS church. I ask this God for more than just a husband. I ask this God for more than just children. I ask God to make my life more than what I once thought I wanted. I ask this God for more power than I had the chance of ever having in organized religion. I thank this God that I no longer have to look to an organization to tell me right and wrong. I thank this God that she has blessed me with the ability to be in charge of my own body. I thank this God that I can make my own decisions with her guidance and no one elses'. I thank this God that she does not need me to be a polygamist (here or in heaven). I thank her that she has blessed me with greater imagination and hope for an afterlife. I thank her for so much. 

And then I see another Broadway musical and dream bigger than I ever have before.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Kind of Intelligent Are You?

What does it mean to be "educated"? What does it mean to be "intelligent"? Something I have learned to ask my students and other adults around me is, "What kind of intelligent are you?" I learned this from Ken Robinson, because, like Ken, I believe that everyone is intelligent, it just depends on how what you are measuring. If you measured my Math skills instead of my design skills, I would come out very average indeed.

This question, "What kind of intelligent are you?" Is often a surprise to my fine art students. They are not sure what I mean. Usually, it is phrased, "Are you intelligent?" or "How smart are you?" of "What was your ACT score?" Most people, when asked this, immediately think if they are good at Math or Science or English and then will rate themselves about a 6 or 7, or lower. Few will rate it higher.

But, how flawed is this system? How flawed is it to limit our measure of intelligence to these three subjects? What about the dancer, the painter, the photographer, the poet, the biochemist, the drummer, the singer, the interior designer?

This educational system in front of us does NOT help people find their passions, to find what they love to do, in fact, it fights against it most often, and pushes people into careers that are something they end up enduring instead of enjoying.

I am not this teacher.

I tell my intelligent actors (who are living and breathing with passion, but who get VERY little encouragement to actually work in the acting world from anyone close to them. It's always a hobby. Can you imagine if Marlon Brando just kept it as a hobby?) I tell them that if this is what they love to do, then they should do it. Drama is just as important as Math in my world. It was always more important. It's pushed aside, it's looked at as a "fun" class, a play class, an easy class--but not in my classroom. It is a study and it is challenging and it is inspiring. And I love it.

And I would say to you, just like I say to them:

Find what you love to do and do it. Find your element and do it. Most people have not. It is surprising how many people do not do what they love to do. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all living in our "intelligence"? It is essential to your well being and your success in life. It is essential to our well being as communities--that is my firm belief.

We all have distinctive passions and talents that will inspire us to do far more than we can imagine. So, why have people not discovered this within themselves yet? I really think it is a failed system that forces so many people through the cookie cutter educational system. What would a solution be, well, I'm working on that.

But for now, it would be fun to know more about you.

What is your intelligence?

(This is the first part in many musings in Creativity in Education!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Follow Your Gut

Risk comes from being alive. And yet, it is something we are taught to avoid. I love taking risks, but not in any traditional sense of the word. You will never find me bungee jumping or skydiving or deep sea swimming with killer sharks or even wearing a tube top (that is a risk! I promise! I have seen it go awry!)

But you will find me changing careers, moving to unknown countries, telling people I love them even when I am unsure what the response with be, standing up for things that are right when they are unpopular, drinking the water in Mongolia, and being true to myself--even if I risk losing those closest to me.

Those are my acts of bravery. They are simple. But simple is not a bad thing.

My new mantra in life has been: "Follow Your Gut"

It's been a difficult road to traverse, because apparently my "gut" likes to take me into uncharted waters more often then the average sailor (sailors, yum). Have these things always worked out the way I expected (remember that time I was unemployed in Portugal and homeless without a dime to my name? Yep. That came from following my gut, by the way)? Obviously, my life has had ups and downs because of my desire to take on the world and experience everything. 

When you follow your gut are you promised riches and bling and unending happiness? Depends. Honestly, I think the world needs more people who have found their passion and followed their "guts" to figure out how that passion can benefit the world.

Ultimately for me, what I have learned the most, is that when you follow your gut--no matter who approves, who applauds, and who calls you crazy--you avoid the tummy ache that inevitably comes from trying to please other people's desires for you (but, God Bless them).

And God bless you (blessings from a semi-agnostic who has no answers about spirituality mean a lot these days, yes?). And I bless you too, bless you that you will figure out what it is you are meant to be doing on a daily basis and then DO NOT WAIT. Start now. Start. Begin. Right now. Stop reading. Go. Get to it. Follow your gut.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Martha's Vineyard Epiphany about Same Sex Marriage

Sometimes things make so much sense in my head that I forget others feel challenged by certain ideas that I find very easily acceptable and natural. I live in this beautiful liberal land (yes, even in the midst of Utah) where people I talk to and see on a daily basis and give my attention to all have similar open minds. We recycle. We prefer fair trade over free trade most days. We know that women and men deserve equal pay, and that old fashion gender roles are something that do not define us. We love to vote and eat things like quinoa salad and shop locally. It's a happy place, this little land I've created. So, I find it funny that I had a very simple epiphany in the midst of Martha's Vineyard two weeks ago.

It started out by doing a photo shoot. I get into my groove during that creative time and it is one of my favorite ways to connect with people. My couple was Megan and Linda: the first lesbian couple I have ever photographed. It is funny because during similar shoots I've done of same sex couples, other photographers have asked me how I "pose" my couples. I always thought that was a funny question. One that I simply responded to with "I pose them the way I pose all my couples in love." Why should there be a difference? Both of these ladies were glowing and fabulous and happy and secure and completely in love. The love was deep and respectful and delightful and funny and kind and passionate. They have been together for four years and their wedding is scheduled for next October. They told me the story of their proposal and of their courtship and of the night they fell in love. That photo shoot was one of the most amazing and simple I have ever done. There was no bickering. There was no uncomfortableness. I said, "Be in love, kiss, hold each other." And that is exactly what they did without a hint of awkwardness that sometimes creeps up in straight males not used to being in front of the camera (though I love you boys).

This was completely, utterly, without a doubt normal to me. I did not think it weird or different or threatening or against God. I did not think it awkward or uncomfortable or worry who would see the photos and not hire me because I am so "liberal". And my epiphany came when I realized that we have a whole world out there that does not feel the same way that I do. Most of this beautiful and blessed country that I live in will not acknowledge this marriage between these women. That is the reality and indeed a large percentage of the US population finds such a union threatening and ugly and wrong and perverted. And my epiphany kept going when I had the very simple thought of: "Well, if they could just see what I am seeing right now, then everyone would change their minds. They would see that Love is Love and that it isn't different when it is shared by people different from them. Love is the same." And this may seem simplistic. But it made sense. And so, that is what I will do. And it may be small. But the photos I post will show you, no matter what, that love is love. 

And Utah, be prepared for change.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Book of Mormon Girl--First 2 Chapters

I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with Joanna Brooks last Thursday. I photographed her with her book, and she kindly gave me a signed copy that was completely unexpected and sincerely sweet of her. She is just a good person. She is a smart person. She is a person that knows what to say and how to make people feel understood.

Since I have not actively participated in the Mormon church for the last little while (besides haphazard blogging with the Exponent), I had sort of forgotten that the world sees Mormons as a peculiar people. Most of those "peculiar" behaviors are no longer part of my life, but some of them are and always will be. However, with the upcoming election, I am being reminded of all the ways that "outsiders" look at my family and see their peculiar behavior. I vacillate between agreeing with the world (it's just green tea people!), and wanting to explain some things more clearly when the world gets it wrong (no, there is no practice of polygamy in the church today). 

I snuggled down this week to start reading the memoir. In the past year, I've only read one other book dealing with Mormonism and that was Elna Baker's The New York Regional Singles Mormon Halloween Dance. After reading that, I had to call my good friend and have a long, frustrated, sad cry. I identified with the Elna's story so exactly that it caused me to feel such loss and such remorse over distancing myself from my Mormon-ness and also extreme frustration that I was still awkward and unknowingly unsure about how to participate in the regular world outside of Mormon identification. I felt, quite honestly, that it would have either been easier to stay (which it most certainly would have been). I questioned why I put myself and my family and my friends through my disassociation and extreme doubt and rabid vocalization of my dissatisfaction. But that's the thing with dissatisfaction, it's hard to keep it quiet.

In enters The Book of Mormon Girl. I sat down on Friday and read three pages. Those pages, so beauitflly and poetically and precisely written to paint the life of a Mormon girl. Those pages that will mean completely different things to Mormon people than they will to non-Mormons. Those pages that evoke smells and sounds and memories of a good life, of the beautiful traditions, and the wholesome goodness that defined my childhood.

I shut the book.  I was not sure I could go there again. Not sure I wanted to bring up the feelings of loneliness and unbelonging that come when I see my happy Mormon friends attending their church meetings. The feelings of being misunderstood, or being perceived as a sinner or lazy. The feelings that come up and that I must process and address so that I can keep living an authentic life.

Saturday night I worked through another chapter, and I mourned not feeling a part of the only community I have ever really known. I thought I had processed through these emotions, but that is the funny thing, your childhood never goes away. Even if I thought I had put enough distance between who I am now and who I was as a Mormon--I'm not sure it will ever go away.

I shut the book.  I was feeling uncomfortable. I was imagining the life I could have had as a Mormon. The life I had always imagined having, which looks nothing like the fabulous life I am living now. 

Sunday morning, I opened it again and kept on going. Through Joanna's descriptions of her childhood, I returned to my childhood. I felt the love of my grandmother as we would sit on a church pew together. I remembered the special day that my father baptized me and gave me the gift of the Holy Ghost through a special blessing. I remembered feeling so wanted and loved by a kind Heavenly Father. I remembered when Jesus was a pivotal person in my life. I remember wearing plaid jumpers and having no bigger desires then to live a life pleasing to God. I remember a time when I never, never let a curse word pass my lips (hard to believe!)

It was like all the perfect and happy and warm and comforting moments of being Mormon flashed through my head in little vignettes painting in pinks and golds. With all the good memories, it gets easy to forget the bad ones, the ugly ones. I wanted to make excuses for all the hurt and pain that I suffered and that millions of women and men of all colors suffered. It made me want to forget that I care about gay marriage and equal rights and patriarchy, and personal freedom and choice. It made me go deep into my heart space to ask myself if I should be Mormon again ( I still check in about once a year).

Tomorrow. I'll tackle chapter 3.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Accepting The Things I Cannot Change

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

It was when I first started attending AA with my brother that I heard the "Serenity Prayer". After listening to people talk through their addictions and struggles, we would hold hands with the stranger next to us and say, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

Whenever I have recited this prayer, my mind has always,always lingered on "God grant me the courage to change the things I can." For someone who loves constantly pushing myself to heights and horizons I could have never dreamed reaching, this is the part that spoke to my personality.

I never thought about the other half of this prayer. Never. It was not in my vocabulary. It was not in my mind set. I had never had a situation that I could not change for the better. To even give thought to, "Accept the things I cannot change," was something I was incapable of doing. I am D'Arcy. I always have the power to change things I do not want to accept. I have the power to change myself. I have the power to choose my path. I have the power to decide where I live, what I do, who I have relationships with, how I see myself.

If I just cannot accept the fact that Marriage Equality is not granted to everyone right now--then I will not accept it, and I will work to change it. If I cannot accept the fact that women currently earn less then men. I will not accept it and I will work to change it. Everything had a solution, or at least a part that I could play in the solution.

Everything can be changed. At least. I could work to change it. 

Accept it? NEVER.

Until Patience.

Having Patience in my life made me realize that there are a few things I cannot change.

I cannot change who her mother is.
I cannot change what her mother has done to her.
I cannot change the things that she saw when her mother was high.
I cannot change how her mother will raise her.
I cannot change her father or his drug addiction and apathy.
I cannot change how the system works.
I cannot change the decisions her parents made.
I cannot change the harm they caused her.
I cannot change the fact that she does not understand what is going on right now, and that she is scared and fragile and lonely and confused and that she thinks I have abandoned her.
I cannot change her life in the ways I want to change her life.

I cannot accept these things.
And yet I must.

The lesson and the peace lie in the acceptance.

I cannot change this.

Monday, July 30, 2012

This is Life.

I am happiest when I am doing something creative. My hands like to be busy. My mind likes to be busy. Sitting and meditating in silence is one of the hardest things for me to do. I make a very bad New-Agey person most times (except I love wearing yoga pants everywhere!), even though the core philosophies resonate with me deeply. The peace. The quiet. Why can't I just sit in peace and quiet and let the answers flow over me like a river? Are not all answers found in the flowing waters of a river? (that last sentence should be said in Yoda voice or its equivalent).

I cannot just let things flow over me, mostly, because I get bored. Because I do not find my solace in the peace and the quiet. I find it in the busy and dirty and heat of a city street. I find it making random eye contact with people in crowded places. I find it going through an overpopulated airport on my way to a different country. I find it sitting in a loud pub and staring at the bottom of my glass. I find it at rock concerts. I find it in chaos.

Forget the quietly flowing river, I say! I'd rather be paddling down the river, having waves rush at me, dodging rocky cliffs, and forgetting to wear a life jacket. This may be to my detriment. I accept it and am going to stop trying to change it. I shall not relax!

I like to jump wholeheartedly into that which I believe. I take action. I do stupid shit. Sometimes that shit pans out and sometimes it does not (hello, shall I tell you about the time I gave up everything and moved to Switzerland?).

I have stopped trying to make sense of it. I have made so many mistakes in life. I have also never let fear get the best of me. I think those two things go hand in hand. 

I take the risks. I tell men I love them. I move to foreign countries. I invest all my money in my passions. I would rather be homeless that an accountant. I get too political. I speak too loudly. I drive too fast. I am wrong often and won't admit it. I expect more from a conversation over coffee than most people do (thrill me, please!). I get way too anti-social. I am awkward. I sing all the time.

I want to experience everything. I keep thinking this will go away. I keep telling myself that I will want to settle down. Be one place. Grow a garden. Nest. Build a life that consists of constants. But I have finally admitted that I do not want those things. I am bored by those things. I can't imagine my life not changing from year to year. This makes me a bad candidate for relationships and family units. People might pity that. I embrace it. It is who I am.

Like trying to squeeze five lifetimes into one.

I'll take that challenge.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Did I Overreact?

I have learned a huge lesson this month. One that seems simple and straightforward, but one I have resisted for years and years (decades, even!)

Let me sum it up for you:

If you guide your behavior by paying attention to the way someone else feels about your behavior...then YOU ARE POWERLESS.

This means taking action without worrying about other people's reaction to your action.


This means that you might not meet the 1950s dictionary definition of "nice". It might mean that you are the very epitome of the 1950s dictionary definition of "mean".

This is hard for me. This might be hard for most women, and even some men (because men are people too).

I am referring, on a large scale, to our close, personal, intimate relationships (not about large actions that would affect a community).

Let me give you an example: have you ever led someone on romantically because you felt too "mean" to just ignore a text message or email from a would be (or past) suitor (even though ignoring is just what you wanted to do)? Did you worry that they would perceive you as mean, and you just want to be seen as nice (we all want to be liked)?  So you answer them, or accidentally encourage, or go on dates you do not want to go on because you just want things to go well, be drama free, no one to get hurt? (note to self: these types of situations really aren't supposed to go "well").

Here is another example: have you ever told someone that you are not interested in a relationship. So, they ask if you can just be friends instead. You have your doubts. But, to be "nice", you say sure! (even though you know that they harbor romantic feelings for you (or vice versa))? Thus, making every time you are with them uncomfortable and awkward?

What about the time you say yes to things you really do not want to do because you are worried how the other person will respond if you say no (even though your gut is saying NO!)

Why do we do this? Why do we not trust our guts? Why do we not do what we actually want to do? Even if it makes us "mean"?  Sure, we could blame it on being raised in a religious setting that teaches women to be sugar and spice and every thing nice (um, I think that is society in general, not just religious society). Sure we could blame our docile mother who just baked cookies and smiled through all the things she did that she did not want to do. Sure, we could blame it on ourselves--we overreact! We are overly sensitive! We are paranoid!  Maybe the guy is nice! Just give things a chance! Maybe you are wrong. It is easier just to say yes! --So, yes, I guess you just blame yourself and now stop doing it!

Why do we second guess every first decision we want to make?

How would your life be different if you did not second guess? No apologies.

Someone asks you out and you do not want to go, so you just say no (without the fear that you should say yes because the world tells you that you are a spinster and that you need to get married).

This is classic fear-based behavior--What will people think of me? What if I hurt their feelings? What if they tell other people I was mean or crazy or that I overreacted? That I am too much drama? That I am difficult? That I am hard to please? That I have too high of expectations?

I challenge each of you to notice things that you are doing that you do not want to be doing. It is not fair to yourself, or to the person you are in a relationship with, to continue to do these things. Even if that means ending the relationship. And you have to have enough faith in your feelings and emotions to let them guide you. Be true to them. And you have to have enough faith in the other person to realize that they are capable of dealing, and moving on, and finding a better life path.

And if we all did that, the world would be a more honest place. A better place. A happier place. 

Look out world. I am doing what I want to do, and I am no longer afraid what you might think of it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Most Important Freedom of All

The White Rabbit. 
The Red Pill vs. The Blue Pill.
A Dream You Can't Shake.
                                                                                                         The Matrix.
                                                Circular Paths.

What is your world like? Who and what influences you? What questions and dilemmas do you ponder? What evils do you struggle against? What reforms do you advocate? What makes you laugh and cry?

And are you willing to expand any of those, or do you see only evil beyond your little haven you've created? Are you willing to have the freedom that comes with your own enlightenment? Are you wiling to see that only through enlightenment comes your own empowerment?

One of the most shocking things in the world to me is meeting someone who believes they have it all figured out. And yet, I understand them completely because for the first 30 years of my life, I felt that I, too, had all the answers. But within those answers I felt powerless to have any say in my life's situations. I sat around and waited for a God (who seemed pretty cool) to give me everything I prayed for, which, of course, does not happen..which then makes you think either God is uncool, or YOU are uncool. I dig God, so I my only conclusion was that I must have been the uncool one in the equation. Which led to feelings of powerlessness for me. Believing I could not choose anything other than the path that was set before me had me stagnant and feeling like an Old Maid at the age of 27.

Luckily, I took a brave leap of faith and ventured outside the little Matrix I was comfortable in (and I'm not just talking about religion here). 

And I started to see the world differently. And I started feeling powerful.

Like superhero powerful. Like web was going to come shooting out of my wrists powerful. Like my golden tiara and lasso could stop airplanes in mid-flight powerful.

For your 4th of July viewing pleasure, I thought a Good Ole Fashion Top Ten List would be appropriate. Here they are! The top ten ways that I think people, especially women, give away their power.

Feel free to disagree with me. I would love to hear your comments! 

1. Asking others what you should do.
2. Thinking God decides who gets what.
3. Worrying about how your dream will come true.
4. Thinking you have dues to pay.
5. Attaching to unimportant details and outcomes.
6. Believing in soul mates.
7. Thinking karma or spiritual contracts are absolute.
8. Fear of anything.
9. Waiting for your ducks to line up before acting.
10. Choosing to be unhappy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Yes. Yes. YES!

"My first word of advice is this, Say yes. In fact, say yes as often as you can. Saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to new experiences, and new experiences will lead to knowledge and wisdom. Yes is for young people, and an attitude of yes is how you will be able to go forward in these uncertain times."

- Michael Hogan
, President of the University of Connecticut.

Sometimes I say no to socializing. I am a loner (but not a scary one in a trench coat carrying a duffle bag). I like to stay at home and work because my focus on my work (which is my passion) is unquenchable. I am a homebody for sure. I travel so much that when I am home, I like to be here. I love my little cottage and the feeling of peace and happiness that sort of wafts over you as you enter. It is a good place to be off the grid. It is safe and warm and comfortable and cozy and full of everything I think I need in this world (except French people). So, many times when people invite me over or ask me out or want to get together or mention a cool exhibit or an awesome concert or hanging in a coffee shop or going dancing or grabbing a drink or a million other things that people do outside their doors, I say no. Work is more important. I am busy. I have this toddler with me now (though she is sort of a legitimate excuse :)  

So, when I read this quote about saying "YES" to things, I thought I was good to go. And then I realized that I do not say "yes" very often to those social gatherings. 

But, that's no big deal right?

I actually do not know. I do not know if my life would be different or if I would have deeper connections with others or if I would have been inspired in some way by some artists that changed my life if I would have just said YES. I just do not know. This not knowing makes me want to start saying yes to things I usually do not say yes to.

I say yes to education. I say yes to travel. I say yes to hard work. I say yes to taking in this little one. I say yes a lot, but I still have one major road block of "NOs" that I want to overcome. One that I think will make my life more tangible.

What about you?

"The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure."

- Joseph Campbell, mythologist, teacher, sage, rad man.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Regret Be Gone

I don't know about you, but when I start nearing my next birthday, I usually do two things:

1. I start thinking about all the things I have not accomplished.
2. I figure out a way to celebrate myself.

See, as an artist, I tend to be very good at the extremes. I can be so kind to myself and loving--hold my own hand and skip through a golden field and sing songs of accomplishment. I can also sucker punch myself again and again like that disturbing scene in Fight Club = EXTREME.

I think a lot of us are extreme in the way we talk to ourselves. Unless we are socially inept, then we have learned the basic skills to be funny and caring to others in our presence....and if it is a 2 year old--forget about it--we are like Mary Poppins 24 hours a day! But what about when it comes to you? Just you?

It is harder, isn't it?

I am better at celebrating my life and my milestones then many people I know. Many people do not believe they are worth the money to fly to Paris for a weekend. Many people do not believe that birthdays are important or that their birth on this planet means anything special. These people make me want to help them. They make me want to plan surprise birthday parties or vacations or something help them realize how much they are loved. But, it never works, because something within them just does not believe it, no matter what others outside of themselves try to do.

For my birthdays I have always traveled, because it is my drug of choice. I have gone to the French Riviera and rented a convertible to feel the wind in my hair. Traveled to Buenos Aires, Paris, Ireland, or even just to California so I could walk on a beach. I have seen the world because I know I deserve to see the world. 

The last 3 years I have traveled to New York City because my passion (to direct on Broadway one day) has drawn me back to that city many, many times each year. 

It is bittersweet.

It is bittersweet because I am always in New York on the day that I am getting "older". And I am always buying a ticket to see the latest TONY award winning play that I have not directed yet. I am not even close. I direct High School musicals. I am Zac Effron's teacher. And while I do sit in the audience taking mental notes on technique and etc, I often let those feelings of regret come sinking in.

I should have done more with my 20s than just travel and ago to school. I should have moved to NYC when I was 19 instead of moving to Paris. I should have started interning on Broadway at 20 instead of dreaming of interning in two years when I am closer to 40 than I have ever been. I should have I should have I should have.

Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever worry that you do not have what it takes because you are comparing yourself to EVERY BODY ELSE?

I say that I have finally found the answer (it only took 34 years!): STAY IN YOUR OWN MOVIE. Focus on your scene. Refine and develop your own script. Stay out of others, especially the dramas (though I have occasionally popped into some Romantic Comedies that I have appreciated). You are the leading lady of your life. You are your own measuring stick. What you have had to go through up to this point was absolutely how life needed to play our for you to go one to accomplish what you dream of accomplishing.

I truly have no doubt that the goals I set are going to come true. 

No doubt.

What about you?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

He Brought Raspberries

On our first date he didn't bring flowers. He brought raspberries. 

I was nervous. I was still an active Mormon. He was the first non-Mormon I had ever even gone on a date with. I was 30. I wanted out. I wanted something different than I had ever known. 

He was different.

He was tough. Not in a poetic way, but in an "I'll-Kick-Your-Ass-And-Throw-More-Than-A-Cellphon-At-You-Russell-Crowe-Way". He had been in fights, you could tell by the scars on his knuckles. He was not afraid of speaking his mind. He had long hair, and yes, this seemed exotic to a woman who had dated clean shaven men from BYU most of her days. He smoked. A lot. He had a dark side. More than that, he had a "past". He was Marlon Brando in The Wild One and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, all in one, minus the jacket. He didn't give a fuck about pleasing other people, and that is pretty much what I aimed to do ever day. He was my exact opposite in every way. 

I was defined by my innocence and it showed. I was Doris Day in Pillow Talk and Sandra Dee in Gidget all in one. I had long, blonde hair that I still wore in braids. I did not own any low cut blouses. I still liked to watch reruns of Little House on the Prairie. And thus, when the sexual chemistry sucker punched us both at the same time, from the same moment, we were knocked over. It was like that Romeo & Juliet-forbidden-desire-kind-of-a-sucker-punch, and no force was going to stop it. It forced the air out of our guts, so that we couldn't stand, instead we sort of just fell into each other, fast. And for a while, he was all I saw. No one understood it. No one bought into it. One person thought I had brain tumor. It was the kind of experience I should have had at 14, the kind of exploratory mission we should all go on before we are 20, but I was 30, and it was finally happening to me.

Our first date was rainy and the sun was setting. I ran across the parking lot with my sweater over my head. He jumped out of his jeep and met me in the middle of the parking lot located somewhere in Western America. His head greeted mine under the sweater, and we smiled at each other when our foreheads accidentally bumped. Pause. Eye lock. Withheld breath. Uncertainty. Giddiness. I looked away and thought that he was going to be able to tell that I did not belong with him, then I looked up again. His eyes never faltered. He smiled a knowing smile and grabbed my hand. He was in my head already, knowing the thoughts racing there. We ran to his car. He opened my door. I jumped in, taking in his scent and his belongings in the space of a second: a pair of sunglasses on the dash, a worn jacket tossed on the back seat, a frisbee thrown haphazardly on the floor, a pack of cigarettes, and a bowl of raspberries nestled between the parking break and his seat.  

I breathed in the scent of raspberries, cigarettes, car leather, and him.  All my senses, the ones that had been dulled by robot-boy after robot-boy started yawning, stretching, and waking up. He jumped in and shook the steady rain off his jacket. We both tripped over some words.

"I brought you something."
"I was thinking flowers, but you're not that girl. So, I brought you raspberries from my house."
"You grow things?" He did not look like a man who grew things.
"They grow themselves, a little wild and crazy, taking over my whole back yard, but I don't get in their way."
I reached for one.
"Here, wait." He took one and put it on the roof of his mouth. "If you put it here and then press your tongue against it slowly, it will fill your mouth with the sweetest burst of flavor you've ever tasted. It's the only way to eat them." I watched his mouth take in the berry and then saw his jaw work, indicating his tongue slowly bursting the raspberry juice into his a mini-orgasm.
"You try it," he said.
My mouth had gone dry. I gulped. I took the raspberry from the small bowl he held and placed it into my mouth. I let my tongue close around it. 

Burst. Flavor. Release.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The EX-Factor

If you live in Salt Lake City, you are older than 27, and you have had an active dating life, then you know one thing—it is easy to run into an ex.  

In fact, you will not only run into an ex, you will also run into the guy you went on three awkward dates with who never called you back. He will be standing in front of you at Coffee Garden right after you have finished yoga and you are sweaty and not at all ravishing. You will stand there behind him, staring at the back of his head, and debate about just how adult you are supposed to be.  Whatever you decide, you will curse the fact that he is in your coffee shop.  

You will also run into that guy who took you to the Broadway Theater to see the great indie movies you both loved, even though you realized, after holding hands with him in the gritty tale of The Wrestler that he is nothing more than eye candy.

You will run into the man who took you to Urban Lounge because you both wore red beanies and loved Neko Case and he dumped you for this other girl who wore beanies and loved Neko Case because she had bigger glasses than you did.

At the Capitol Theatre you will run into the guy you dated once who does not yet know he is gay even though he talked to you about the brilliance of Billy Elliot for 45 minutes.

And the finale will be that you will run into ALL of these men combined at the Farmer’s Market at Pioneer Park on Saturday morning—those are the best times of all. It's like a little party that you would never invite the Queen to.

When you date people who have similar interests as you do, there are only so many places to go in the Salt Lake City. 5 coffee shops, 3 concert venues, 2 organic markets, and 1 great movie theater.

The sort of awkwardness you feel with someone you had a few dates with can be annoying, but not enough to keep you from frequenting your favorite hot spots. But, what if you had a three year relationship with someone? Someone who goes to all the same spots as you because you went to those spots together, and often. What if they are legitimately dubbed your “EX” (and everything that entails).  

Don't fret! If that happens, I have some helpful hints for the person who is the Ex (which is not me, because I, obviously, do not need to change).

If you are an EX, I’d like to help you.  All EX-es should know to follow a certain code of conduct, especially if they feel nothing for the other person, but the other person still feels things for them. This makes sense, right?

Ahem, All EX-boyfriends should adhere to the following basic rules:

1.     They should never appear in public with the new girl they are dating. Especially if that girl is ten years younger than you are. They should not hold her hand in your presence, or whisper in her ear in your presence, or open the car door for her (the one they used to open for you) in your presence.

2.     They should never look too happy or tanned or healthy or vibrant. They should look forlorn and melancholy, like their life ceased to have meaning after you broke up with them.

3.     When they go out in public, they should appear slightly unshaven and their clothes should be a bit wrinkled.  They should look traumatized and on the verge or tears. They should carry around a small mole-skinned notebook that they compose bad love songs about a girl with blonde hair and rosy cheeks.

4.     And this, above all: They should be utter douchebags every time you see them. They should NOT, never, ever, never bring you an umbrella if you are at the concert venue where they volunteer and it is hot outside and the sun is shinning so much and your delicate skin will get burned and they notice this and they bring you an umbrella which they should not have done. They should not offer you water and blankets at this same venue when they see you might be thirsty or cold. They need to not notice you or say hi to you or be kind in any way. They should ignore you, act childish, and look ugly.  It is really that simple.

I am glad we cleared this up.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Sound of Unlocking

Do you know what the sound of a heart being unlocked sounds like? What it feels like? Is it a burst of knowing that someone is going to change your life? A type of emotional epiphany? A warming of the heart? A quickening of the breath? 

I am a gal who keeps a lot of things under lock and key. Emotions, mostly, especially when the stakes are high. I’m not a gambler, least of all with my heart. I am a gal who keeps up walls and boundaries and, in some cases —barricades— until I know that the relationship is safe to enter fully. I do not like getting hurt. I do not like being hurt. I do not like hurting others. I think a lot of us spend a vast amount of time planning on how to keep ourselves safe from pain. And yet, in the complexities of human relations—there is always a spoonful of hurt that no amount of sugar can take away.

The night before the kid came into my home, I had what the Southerners in my life would call “A coming to Jesus” moment. I had to let go of all the voices speaking to me from the recesses of my mind (even if some of them were in French). The voices that told me that this whole process was going to hurt. A lot. No matter what happens when the jury reads the final verdict. It was going to hurt being a single mom. It was going to hurt the day that I had to give her back. A lot. It was going to hurt watching her go back with people that you just don’t trust. It was going to hurt to give up my career plans, vacation plans, social plans. It was going to hurt if I got to keep her. It was going to hurt if I did not get to keep her. Hurt. Ouch.

I had to let go of the fear of getting hurt.

I had to live in the day to day and the night to night.

I realized on Tuesday what the sound of unlocking sounds like. It sounds like tiny, 2-year-old feet stepping lightly across the bedroom floor. It sounds like the rustle of her blankie dragging behind her. It sounds like the little whirl of “Aunt D’Arcy?” as I open my 5:30am eyes and see her 5:30am eyes looking at me. It sounds like pulling her up, taking her into my arms. It sounds like an exhale as she settles. It sounds like a soft exchange of “Nose!” and the tapping of a finger on the two noses that were present. It sounds like a tired “umhmm”, said with closed eyes, to confirm that she got it right. It sounds like all those little sounds that we do not ever really listen to.

It actually does sound like a tiny little “click-click”.

And you know the pain is going to be overwhelming at some future point...but you pull the key out of that lock and open the door anyway. You open it to more than just meeting her needs, more than just helping her survive, more than just giving her a schedule and security and teaching her to say “please” and “thank you”. More than all of that. You open it up and you start to love her like she deserves to be loved. Even if that love is going to end up just feeling "helpless" the rest of the time. You unlock.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gaining a 2-Year-Old

When I found out that my niece was being taken away from her mother (no relation), my mind went into a bit of a fine frenzy. I had to make a decision. And I had to make it soon. DCFS gives a couple of hours to decide and you don’t just decide to take her for a few weeks, you have to decide, in that moment, that if her parents never get their act together, then you would be ready and willing to adopt the child. I sort of hate DCFS for that. I sort of love them, too. But right now I just think they are a little batshit crazy in asking people to make those kinds of decisions.

So—putting my brain in hyper-speed--I thought about it. Maybe I am the crazy one. Maybe the answer is such an obvious “YES” that the fact that I would hesitate so long makes me a bad person. Maybe it makes me selfish and self-centered. Or maybe it makes me intelligent and cautious. I’m not sure anymore because I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in about 7 days.

The thought process of deciding between having my niece come to live with me, and having her go with a foster family went something like this:

1.     Maybe foster care will be better. Maybe she will be placed with a loving couple who really wants a child. (I’d cling to this for about 3 minutes and then it would go away)
2.     Maybe she’ll be sexually abused in foster care (this one never went away)
3.     Maybe the mom will be home all day and play with her and help her learn and grow. (happy thoughts!)
4.     Maybe the mom will put her in front of the tv all day and ignore her and only do it for the government money. (sad thoughts)

And then the thoughts continued to this:

1.     I do not want kids.
2.     I love my life the way it is.
3.     What can I give to a child?
4.     How will I be able to afford daycare and babysitters?
5.     I had so many plans for my photography business this summer and a 2 year old is going to eat up all that time…how do I provide a living for myself...and her, now?
6.     My single friends aren’t going to hang out with me...or they won't understand...and....

But, more difficult than processing all my rollercoaster thoughts, has been processing what people have been telling me:

1.     This will be good for you, it will make you softer.
2.     See, God really did want you to have children, so you got them one way or another (don’t you just love that Christian God? Always giving you what you need, instead of what you want? )
3.     This will increase your ability to love (again, because apparently, all single people are somehow so stunted in this area).
4.     This will give more meaning to your life (this one pisses me off the most, as I don’t really succumb to the idea that being childless means that I have less value or meaning in my life).
5.     This will be the best and hardest experience of your life  (this one confuses me).

I understand that I’ve opened myself up to all kinds of advice. I’m taking it in. I’m processing it, but, in the end, I don’t think I am going to fall into the nice little categories that everyone seems to create regarding parenthood. But, naturally, I'm also trying to protect myself from the real possibility that her parents are going to get her back and I'll watch them all fall into old patterns again. 

But, this week is probably not the best to assess it all as truthfully, I’ve mostly just felt numb.

As a friend said to me the other day, “putting on a play is hard, being a parent is hard, dealing with new situations is hard, trying to be patient with people who don't deserve it is hard, and coping with less than normal sleep is hard--but to suddenly deal with all of those things all at once!  I'm not surprised at you feeling numb--I imagine that, like a computer dealing with too many programs going at the same time, your body and spirit and mind are just trying to survive.”