Moving On

My baby blessing outfit. If I have a daughter I still want to do something like a blessing so she can wear this. 

My baby blessing outfit. If I have a daughter I still want to do something like a blessing so she can wear this. 

I have debated writing about my relationship with religion because it is confusing and most of the people I know feel strongly about Mormonism and get sad when someone doesn't want to be apart of it. But, Mormonism is how I was raised, my culture, a constant topic in my family, where I met most of my friends, intertwined with my education at BYU, and will always be a huge part of who I am--so it seems like a topic I have to address. I also have felt very adamant that I talk about my views on how people on opposite sides of Mormonism can better respect each other.

Almost exactly a year ago I walked into church, like every other week of my entire life, but left in a much different manner. Up until this point I had literally never skipped church without a justifiable reason (traveling, sick etc). I had always been on the more liberal side of how I viewed and followed church policy/guidelines/cultural norms but I had always stuck it out and because I am freakishly dependable and was almost always in charge of something in my ward. I also had this view that I could help others that didn't fit the mold, that I could be the breath of fresh air. I think deep down I knew I didn't want this to be my life forever but I am not the type to quit something and I literally did not know how that transition happens. So it took a major wakeup call to force me to walk away. I walked into church like every other Sunday but ran out hyperventilating; I was having my first and only panic/anxiety attack.

Since I had never experienced something like this before I of course googled it. It mentioned how things will flash thru your mind from the past and all compound on top of each other, it leaves you gasping for air, ugly crying, and contemplating your sanity (at least that is what I experienced). So what triggered me? A very nice woman giving a talk about how much she had been blessed and everything in her life had worked out because God answered all her prayers. Sounds like a great talk, right? And it was, except for when things from my past started flying through my mind. Things from my childhood, guys I have dated, unanswered prayers and the most recent issue of my last boyfriend telling me that God had told him to break up with me while all I had ever prayed for was for a decent guy, like him, to be with me.

BYU.jpg

I know all the things active members are thinking at this point. You shouldn't let trials destroy your faith and things are not always rosy so grow up. Here's the thing, I also realized around the same point that I don't have faith in this plan. I realized that one of the reasons I didn't really want to get married all these years is because I knew in Mormonism that meant praying with my spouse and I HATE praying with other people and of course the temple--the temple freaks me out. I realized I had a fear of having children because I didn't want to teach them about church. I realized that there are some policies that will never work with my views on a loving God. I realized that I had been pushing things I should want away because I didn't want to do them in Mormonism. And I realized the most important thing; I know absolutely nothing to be true.

Church was always something my family did but didn't really talk about. We weren't the best at Family Home Evening, I can't think of ever doing a family temple trip, we sometimes did family prayer, and we rarely discussed church topics in a frank way. It was expected but not really explained. But somehow this worked, it at least worked in the sense that for the most part we all went as kids without complaining much, we ALL went to BYU (though some of us should not have, ask BYU housing which they wished hadn't attended hahahaha) and the majority of my family married in the temple, are super active and are doing fantastic jobs teaching their kids in open ways about Mormonism. Though you can look at my life and see COMPLETE activity in every way, I never understood everything. If you listened to my talks and lessons in church they were always on being kind and never really focused on gospel principles...

1923290_519795992679_9543_n.jpg

It took me until my late twenties to realize that I am not a spiritual person. I don't feel things in church or when I pray or when other people are. The only time I feel something is when music is involved and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the pioneer hymns of Mormonism. When you are not a spiritual person and frankly most religious things make you incredibly uncomfortable, it is virtually impossible to try and gain faith in things you feel nothing for and are super confused by. I deal primarily in logic and not feelings; religion is not logical. When I told my bishop that I was not a spiritual person he tried to assure me that isn't true and of course I am; I do not see this as a fault but just how I was made. 

I don't want to turn this post into things I don't agree with in the church. Everyone has heard them over and over and it is not my intention to try and sway people to "my side." I will say, though my main reason for not attending church is because I don't feel anything when I am there (other than stress) and don't have faith in it, there are major policy, culture, and history fallacies that I cannot support. But that being said, every active member has things they don't agree with or understand and the difference is that they see value in the whole.

1927678_520140382519_3323_n.jpg

Here is what I do know about Mormonism, it has produced some pretty amazing people. I look at my family and friends and see smart people, I don't think they are "dooped" or or being forced. I see them standing up for their beliefs even when its hard and unpopular. I see their kindness and happy dispositions. I think Mormonism gets somethings right and if I was going to be raised in some "crazy"--non mainstream--religion, I think I would still pick this one. (and if anyone knows how I can have a one on one chat with Elder Utchdorf, let me know! He will always be my favorite apostle; I have appreciated so many of conference talks--he always makes me feel like I am not crazy)

I spent most of my collage years sending missionaries off, writing them letters and welcoming them home.

I spent most of my collage years sending missionaries off, writing them letters and welcoming them home.

And here is what I know about being on both sides of the fence: we need to talk more, judge less and love unconditionally on BOTH sides. Active members tend to not mention when people leave, I think because they don't want to make the individual feel like they are prying and they don't want to make things awkward. But we WANT to be asked! We want to be acknowledged and have frank discussions. And on the flip side, people who leave need to be able to speak about it calmly and without calling it a sham and the believers mindless cult members (think of it as a different religion, if you wouldn't say it about Judaism to a Jew then don't say it about Mormonism to a Mormon. Sometimes people feel like they get to say whatever they want because they were on the inside and "know." Don't do that, it makes you look like a heartless ass who can't let things go and move on). We both need to stay a part of each others lives. Active members need to invite exs to things. Are you giving a talk? Are you blessing a baby? Having a baptism? Putting on the Christmas program? Great! Let us know! And exs need to go to these things! Treat them like a family get together and not a religious event. Go because it is your family (or friends) and you love them and want to support them. Go because you should. And both parties need to treat these encounters like the family events they are not as a missionary opportunity. Don't invite them to try and bring them back, let the exs feel at ease. And lastly, don't judge each other. See the people for who they really are and not what you assume. If they go to church don't assume they aren't thinking for themselves or that they are always looking at you sideways. And if they don't go don't assume it is because they have a drinking problem or want to have sex (and if it is, who cares!) Strip away the labels and see the people for who they are and have always been. 

380488_3610935148636_983693340_n.jpg

And if you go to church, please don't tell me how sad you are for me. If you TRULY believe in agency then you have to let people go. You can't invite someone to read the Book of Mormon and to "pray about it to see if it is true" and reject their truth if it is no. If the church really is true, I am sure this will all be worked out in the after life. The plan I was always taught doesn't make much sense if everyone would feel the same about everything and join the church. Sure we want people to join but we have always known that there are two answers people can get when they ask. Also, I was always been taught that the lowest kingdom is more amazing than earth, so if that is true don't be sad for me, also you can come visit all you want! See? God is kind and thought about those like me!

I worked for the church multiple General Conferences. I wish that the church could see the value in photographing what is REALLY present at conference. They want the typical, BYU dress/grooming standard, people but the real beauty is in the tattooed/bearded/scantily clad people that look truly happy to be there.

I worked for the church multiple General Conferences. I wish that the church could see the value in photographing what is REALLY present at conference. They want the typical, BYU dress/grooming standard, people but the real beauty is in the tattooed/bearded/scantily clad people that look truly happy to be there.

And where does this leave me? 

That is the age old question. I have no idea. I just hit the year mark of living in Salt Lake City and have made half of one friend (we are only friends at work so once I convince him to hangout off the property then he can be promoted to one whole friend). I have been thinking about my lack of a social life a lot lately and I think it is because I don't know where Mormonism left me. I used to make friends at church and school and without either I am hopeless. I am not like everyone else outside of Mormonism (or so I perceive) so I am having a hard time even figuring out how to begin to make friends "on the outside." I have never tried alcohol. I am a virgin with zero dating game. A risqué outfit to me is a sleeveless knee length dress. And I have no idea what my beliefs are in God let alone everything in the universe. I don't feel like I fit in anywhere and it is confusing and hard, but a year without any social responsibility (or church callings!) has also been healing. I have lost a significant amount of weight, I enjoy my work, I do things because I want to, and I am overall the happiest I have been in a long time. But now I have the hardest assignment to do: figure out why I do and don't do things. Do I ever want to drink? What are my boundaries in dating? What are the driving forces behind my decisions and character? Where do I donate my money? (and on a side note, I should have already figured this out because tithing is not really a charitable donation...) And there is still this overwhelming fear of letting my friends and family down if I do change some of my behaviors. 

My brother called me a couple months ago and mentioned something about me not attending church. He said something about how he just wanted me to be happy. I replied with, "I am happier this year than I have been in a very long time." And doing what he should, he said he was happy for me and didn't try to push me into coming back.

I like to think there is a God and his gift to me was a panic attack. He knew I was sad and lonely and that I would never be able to walk away from Mormonism without a push.

Also, it turns out that I actually do want to get married and maybe have kids one day. Now I just have to find someone who preferably used to be Mormon, but isn't bitter, and a decent guy and handsome and smart and can hold a conversation and is okay with my huge family and has a job... not a hard task at all...

Do I Look My Age Yet?!

Let's be honest, 2016 was THE WORST. Politics sucked (and stole my coping mechanism, reality tv, now when I watch all I can think is, "This could be our next president!"), people died--celebrities and family members, work was rough, I got dumped, my landlord hates me, I called the police more times than I can count, you know, the usual. I try to keep my yearly recap upbeat but I also think it is important to be real so I included everything worth mentioning. But don't worry, there are good things that are mixed among the unfortunate. 

In my 29th year:

I celebrated my birthday with my family, my co-workers, and my friends. 

On my birthday (at night so I didn't realize it until later) my house was robbed. It was completely targeted at me, made me feel uneasy in my own home, totally violated, and the cops did absolutely nothing.

I spent Valentine's with this kid and told him that if are both aren't married in 10 years we should get hitched. I also squeezed into my hot pink jeans which was a major feat.

I had my ACL replaced.

I started dating a guy that I had known for a few years but we had never been close until he started keeping me company while I iced my knee after surgery. We spent many hours eating all the pizza and tacos and watching Better Call Saul and Bob's Burgers (I'm not the most exciting person to date when I can't walk...)

I worked another session of LDS General Conference and this year we didn't get sweared at by any senior missionaries! 

Four of my siblings ran the Boston Marathon so I made the most out of my east coast trip by going to NYC, the marathon and then stayed with a friend outside Boston. And I won Best Sister of the Year award for making homemade chocolate pie in a hotel room. 

I flew to San Fransisco to spend the weekend with my sister.

I reconnected with three of my Freshmen friends in two days, two old roommates for breakfast and one guy to photograph his wedding (all wedding receptions should end with a fire pit and s'mores).

I planned my final event as Activities Director for my church. I used my super human talent to feed way too many twenty somethings on way too little money. 

I leased a warehouse for my businesses which is a HUGE deal.

I bought a shirt just so Milo and I could match and accidentally match my mom at least twice a month. 

I got dumped in the most heartless way possible and now he pretends I don't exist. 

I wrote a blogpost about being dumped because of religion and it was shared on a Ex-Mormon Reddit page and had thousands of views. The response was overwhelmingly positive and I received over 50 messages from people from all aspects of my life. If you are one of the people that reached out to me, THANK YOU, it really did mean a lot.

I attended my 10 year High School Reunion. It was weird. I had some great conversations with friends and I realized that the people I didn't like in high school I still don't like now... I also made Stephen take awkward prom pose photos since we somehow never went to a dance together.

I played Pokemon Go once and quickly became a statistic as a fell down a flight of stairs.

I was contacted by an ex-boyfriend--who has stalking tendencies and has been removed from my property by the police in the past--for no reason other than intimidation and to say hurtful things. I had to talk to the police more times that I can count as they searched for him to deliver a No Contact Order. They also checked on my property every night until I moved. He is the reason and I do not tell people where I currently live or answer unknown numbers. Because of him I had to tell my family that if I am ever hurt it was most likely his fault. This is not a position I want anyone in and if someone you know is dating a crazy person know that they probably want out. I didn't break up with him because I was afraid of him, everything that has happened has proved me right. But, people also did not take me seriously when I told them of my issues. Though I told men in my church that he was abusive and I had to call the cops, one man still asked me multiple times to meet with him (my ex) because he was having a hard time. I am sorry, I am the victim and you should NEVER ask me meet with my abuser. I also had one man ask to speak with me about the situation only to be asked multiple times if we had had sex and not "how are you doing, are you okay?" (to be honest, the part about telling my leaders at church was prior to 2016 but still, can we now all see how FRIGHTENING my ex is?!)

I convinced my co-workers to all put on metallic tattoos.

I booked a ticket to Europe on a whim to spend time with friends. After spending a few days in the Swedish country side I went to four other countries in one week by myself. I went from Stockholm (Sweden) to Copenhagen (Denmark) to Berlin (Germany) to Prague (Czech Republic) to Oslo (Norway). It was slightly nerve-wracking but amazing.

I moved into an own place, it totally fits my personality, is close to work and I love it--other than my landlord and slight mouse infestation. After my landlord said everything he shouldn't (mice aren't a problem, we wouldn't fix the hole they were coming through because "holes don't attract mice," I don't understand tenant rights, and that I was too angry/emotional for us to talk in person) I walked out to the porch where he was standing and replied, "You are right, I am angry, and do you know why? I STOPPED SLEEPING BECAUSE MICE RUN THROUGH MY WALLS ALL NIGHT AND THEN POOP IN MY SHOES!" If I was only wearing a bathrobe over my clothes I would have completed the crazy neighbor look quite nicely. Then, I went to City Hall, scheduled an inspection and needless to say they found almost a dozen infractions that he has to fix or pay a $50 a day fine. I don't know the law my ass...

I flew to LA to spend the weekend with my sisters. I won the Best Sister Award again for wearing my brother's way-too-big-for-me cowboy boots on the plane since they wouldn't fit in my carry-on. They accentuated my unicorn leggings quite nicely....

I had my first ever panic/anxiety attack. It was brought on by talks at church and things my ex said and implied about church. I haven't been able to go back since. It is obviously a much larger discussion than this post can offer. 

I made an Employee of the Month wall at my office to "class up the joint."

I spent the weekend with four of my sisters in NYC where we all stayed in the family room of my friends one bed room apartment. We ate all the food, walked all the streets, enjoyed a musical with a song and dance about Black Death, and did not shower once. We are crazy fun and crazy disgusting all at the same time. 

I voted for what I hoped would be the first female president.

I spent Thanksgiving in Tennessee with my sister and her family. I took each of my nieces and nephew out on a date, took everyone Christmas shopping, made pies, watched my niece in the Nutcracker, helped frame art for Sarah's new classroom, did facials, watched movies, and loved every minute,

I had the best sales month of my business career which (almost, its still up for debate) made the six straight weeks of doing nothing but working and sleeping worth it. One week I worked 75 hours by Friday night and it took me 4 days to have enough time to buy a gallon of milk....I literally live next to the grocery store.

I spent Christmas with my sister and her amazing in-laws and realized the beard potential of my hair.

I witnessed the most unusual New Years Eve's party that included: acrobats, drummers, one creepy puppet, lots of drunk people, exploding paint, a woman in a belly dancing outfit swinging a live parrot around, and my super confused friends.

And things that don't fit into a timeline:

I made lots of (tiny) homemade desserts

Loved on lots of babies and spent a lot of time with my family

Celebrated a lot of other people's birthdays.

Edited some crazy and funny things at work

Spent time with friends.

And I debated if I should add this, but I spent--and still spend--most of my time alone.

I have always struggled to make (and keep) friends but this year was horrible. When I switched churches after I was dumped, not one person reached out to me. Multiple times when I texted people to invite them to dinner at my house they didn't acknowledge it. I sent people cards and packages and never heard from them. I asked someone to go on a trip only to have them respond with, "yeah, you should go on a trip!" I ask people to get together and they flake on me or give a vague response of how we should hangout "sometime" or they don't respond at all. This was from "friends" while with dating I was ghosted, dumped, and then terrified by three different guys. I even had a comment on my religious blogpost about how I will be single forever because I am selfish, this from a complete stranger. I know that this year was rough and I did not handle it as well as I could have, but it has been so much harder feeling like not many people want me around. Being the only single person in my family, moving to a new city, and having very few friends is super hard. I continually tell myself I don't want birthday parties or to go on dates or that I don't need people's help etc. because it is easier to fool myself than not have people show up. So, if you do actually like me, please spend time with me. The more time I spend alone the less fun I am to hangout with and more self concious I get, this is not a rabbit hole I should go down. And if I have a horrible personality flaw please tell me so that I can start making friends. And to those that have still checked in with me through out my crazy, I love you so very much and I wish we lived in the same city.

I understand how dramatic this sounds, but this year has been full of stress and loneliness and way more tears than I want to admit. I think we all go through this, but I think it is getting more isolating and damaging because of social media. We assume everyone else is having a great time doing fun things because of what they post. We see others constantly texting their friends; we can literally spend all of our time "connecting" with people through our phones and never actually have a connection. For someone like me who is not good at texting, doesn't know what snapchat is, and is detesting Facebook more each day people use it to spew hate, I don't want to only rely on the internet to feel like I belong to some community. 

This year, please be kind and spend less time on the internet and more time in people's actual lives. 

And to end my year, I got bangs and took one of my better selfies. I feel like I am finally starting to look older than 21...

Breaking Up (with religion) is Hard to Do

I recently posted on Facebook about my experiences with Tinder and of course it got more likes than an photo where I actually put on makeup or my amazingly perfect tiny homemade pie. I have become known for my dating stories--the bad, the awkward, the uncomfortable, but sadly never the good. Though I like to keep things lighthearted and focused on the ridiculous, one thing keeps happening to me that sucks and I don't know how to handle it. Just last week I stood on a windy corner in my neighborhood as I was told that Mormonism was black and white; the guy I was dating was standing on the white side and I was on the black. "Yeah, that sucks, but its only one boy," you say, but no, this is the third boy with basically the same exit.

(also, let's pause here. Did you catch the part about religion being black and white? Can we agree that it is NOT true and a pretty damaging assumption?  He said that you either do what you are told or you don't, thinking about things is inappropriate...We are all supposed to find out things for ourselves, wade through the gray and find the light. If someone thinks differently or isn't blindly following, they are not automatically on the "black" side.)

Now, getting dumped this time was not a total shock to me. The breakup was the world's longest, hovering at about two weeks--and religion--well I have known for a long time that I am much darker than most. But even though I knew this boy was going to break up with me because I, a very round peg, do not fit in the perfect Mormon square hole, it has not been easy. Being told that you are not righteous and doing things wrong--things that you know in your heart you cannot feel differently about, makes you feel pretty terrible and hopeless. Terrible that somehow this should make sense and it is unfair that it doesn't, and hopeless that you will ever find someone who wants to be with you. 

Here's the thing, in Mormonism there is a right way to do things, a very specified order of how and when. You are baptized at 8, if you are a boy you start on the priesthood track at 12, you don't date until you are 16, boys are expected to go on missions after high school, and then you get married in the temple. We believe heavily in personal agency, but sometimes I feel like we are so focused on how things are supposed to happen and the time frame that we forget that some people use their agency to do things differently or slower. I, am one of those people.

I am wrestling with major issues (like the church's recent policy that bans children with gay parents from being baptized and says homosexuality is one of the worst sins and can result in excommunication--among other issues). I want to be part of a church that embodies love and isn't so much about policies and orientations and laid out plans for when things should be done in your life. I want honest and sincere, nonjudgmental agency. And if you think that disagreeing with a SINGLE policy isn't a big deal, it is literally the sole reason I was dumped. Apparently it is not acceptable to disagree (meaning you feel like it is a crumby thing) with a policy even if you literally cannot obey or disobey it because you will never be a bishop and have the power to say if a person can get baptized...

photos by me, sometime in 2009

photos by me, sometime in 2009

I spoke with my bishop about my dating situation during my two week break up. I asked him if it was wrong of me to date members of the church since I am not what the men are taught to want to marry (questioning things, feminist, not endowed, the list goes on...). He said that he loved having me there and that of course I was welcome and wanted, but he also told me that he would never counsel someone to get married outside of the temple (because I have doubts and don't think it is apprioprate to go with how I currently feel) and that IF I find someone who is similar to me that could work. IF is one of the saddest words to hear in dating. If I find anyone I am lucky, if I find anyone in Mormonism that is okay with my (lack of) beliefs it is freaking miracle. I understand that the temple is important, I really do. But, it is frustrating to feel like all my good qualities are null and void in relationships since I take the temple so seriously that I don't want to go before I am ready. It feels like we preach that church is for the sinners and people struggling, unless you want to get married and then you had better get all your crap together by your early twenties so you can take part in the MOST important part of the religion and get married in the temple. We believe in a God that is full of grace, that promotes agency, that wants us to find the answers, and that will always give you another chance. Why are we so hard on our members to be on a certain timeline?! And why is it so inappropriate to date someone who is totally active (and completely supportive of the partner in all aspects of the religion, even them attending the temple) but struggling? Is telling me I am wrong and a bad member supposed to help me become a better one?

I know I am not the only one in the church that feels like this, but I feel alone all the time. I feel like I don't fit in anywhere. Mormonism is all I know, its how I met 89% of all the people in my life, it is a culture and religion, it is my background and my foundation, and it is becoming my demise. It is becoming a lonely hateful place where good people are told they cannot be members, a place where boys won't date you longer than 3 months (let alone get near marriage) because they don't want to understand that people see things differently. Its a place where I cannot attend a wedding ceremony. It is a place where I cry in my bishop's office for wanting to date the good people I meet but knowing that they are taught to want more than me. It is a place of social stress and anxiety. It is also a place of God and music and laughter and friendship. It is a place that should be totally about personal decisions without the fear of being judged and ostracized. 

photo by me, sometime in 2010

photo by me, sometime in 2010

I was once told that I care too much about people, that I want things to be fair so badly that it hurts. I think this is true. I want people to feel love and acceptance everywhere that at times it gives me anxiety. I'm that person that hates farmer's markets because I want to buy EVERYTHING to show the people that they are doing a great job and not being financially able breaks my heart. I buy homeless people dinner and talk with them about their lives because I want them to know that they are not alone and that I too had to call the cops on my last boyfriend (true story, that lady and I BONDED!) I even left a card for the boy that dumped me because I didn't want him to remember us from our last, horrible and misunderstood, conversation (also, in my defense, I was on steroids for my knee and roid-rage is real people!). I want everyone to feel loved because sometimes I feel so little. So little from the boys that have told me that I have the wrong relationship with God, that cheated on me or used me. So little from the bullies in public school, from multiple teachers that told me my work was horrible and I shouldn't even try. From roommates that made my life a living hell. These are things that are sad and hard, religion should not be one of them. We should support each other ESPECIALLY when things are hard and people don't understand. We should encourage people to find answers for themselves and not follow blindly. We should not only preach that you can think differently and still be accepted, but act on it. And we should help people and not toss them aside. 

Dating has been pretty terrible and adding religion has made is basically unbearable. It's a place where I never feel good enough, literally the only place in my life where I feel dumb. The only answer I have gotten through all of this--from having the most decent and all around good guy not want to date me because of religion--is that I need to break up with dating that is centered around religion. I want to date people because they are kind and funny and happy and hardworking, not because of their religion. I want to find value in others' beliefs and for them to respect my super confusing convictions. I want to love a person and not a laundry list of what they should hold near, dear and true. 

And yes, I completely understand that is not fair for me to date a guy who may feel like he might have to compromise some of his convictions (like possibly a temple marriage). I just wish their was a place for me and that guys could see the good qualities, the qualities worth fighting for, and work through the hard stuff with me. I am not saying that I will never understand more or want to go to the temple, I am saying that at this moment, I need a lot of help to get there and every guy has tossed me to the curb instead of ever asking me how they can help, let alone even talk about the subject with me. I wish that is was okay to be a confused soul and still find a good, decent, Mormon guy. But it feels like we push marriage so heavily that things are checked off a list early on and people are disregarded because they might not be "marriage material" in one aspect, on paper, at that one moment in time... Do we realize that it takes time to get to know people and what they are really like?!

I have been so beat down by dating that sometimes I forget that I am better than this. I am smart, strong, independent, witty, successful, artistic, musical, generous and even keeled. I am a decent cook, master baker of miniature sweets, a conversationalist and debater, organized to a fault and a great gift giver. Yes, religion is important, but so is being a decent human being that can see the value in all people. 

I will not change for anyone, but I would like the chance to grow with someone.