Friday, May 31, 2013

Questioning the faith: how to have a spiritual discussion without taking up the whip

Triggers of the past week summed up quickly: Rejection and invalidation. Anything that scratches deep into my ever present insecurities and leaves me feeling weak, vulnerable, or attacked.

While my most recent marriage is over I am struggling to reach closure. I need a lot of patience and understanding, but both frequently seem hard to come by. There have been a number of things in relation to my core values and my faith base that have been shaken. Those variables are now slipping about in order to again find solid foundation.

The good news is, I think God finds ways to speak to me to comfort me and to soothe the lingering hurts. 

The bad news, it's not from my family. Sure, my kids are completely on my side. But issues with my mom and my step-dad have gone sour again. Up until this point they seemed to have changed their approach, were treating me as a competent adult and were offering support. I'm beginning to understand that our relationship will and can only be on good ground if distance is maintained. And painful as it is, G—, my longtime counselor from the North Country was correct: my mother will never be the kind of parent that I need. 

I was mistaken in believing that fact had changed, and I left myself wide open for the same treatment that had prompted closing communication last year. Life went from difficult, what with anxiety attacks triggered by visiting with my parents last weekend, to a complete shutdown when my mother called claiming that she wanted to be a listening ear and then ground insult into injury yesterday.

This post isn't about proving an argument, so I'm not going to swing my bat directly at our disagreement. But there are certain considerations that I believe everyone should take when discussing spiritual differences.

First, if you have offered to be a sounding board or to listen when you know someone is troubled, becoming openly combative or judgmental of that person and their struggle is low. It is the worst form of betrayal. 

Second, in matters of spirituality one must understand that belief is a very deep and personal action. It is powerful in its denial of all tangible reason or rationale and its embrace of things unseen. For that same reason it is also incredibly fragile. Even if two people "share" the same faith base, their experiences are separate and sacred. While I would never argue that one shouldn't share his/her belief, use of those beliefs or interpretations of scripture in a mode of dominion, bullying, control, or to circumvent the experiences of another is evil. As Latter-Day Saints we frequently call this Bible bashing. The same can be done with other scripture/text/talks. If you want to help someone struggling, especially someone who hasn't left the faith or who is mulling over issues integral to their core values, listen. If you don't agree, you don't need to say as much. If you believe the validity of your faith, and especially if you believe in direct spiritual revelation, just listen. If you are discussing issues with someone of another faith be sensitive to their response if you feel like sharing your experiences. Sometimes just listening will open doors later down the road to share more.

Third, sometimes you may think you've got it all figured out and that the person you're listening to is off in left field. Keep it to yourself. In my experience different insights come to different people in different layers and at different times. You might say that there are many paths. There are certainly many different scriptures, sometimes contradictory, and many interpretations. That is the problem with conveying spiritual ideas and experiences through written word. Language is not always an adequate mechanism of transferral. I believe that is why religion of all sort is fraught with symbology and ritual. These things touch our minds and teach in ways that words cannot. Left field eventually meets up with right field. Pretty soon you realize we're all playing the same game of baseball.

Fourth, insisting that someone is wrong invalidates that person's spiritual experience and brings into speculation whether they are capable of handling their own relationship with the Holy Ghost. Basically, you are calling into question the active presence of the voice and promptings of the Holy Ghost in someone else's life. You are denying that person's relationship with the Holy Ghost. You are questioning the Holy Ghost's ability to lead someone through whatever struggle they may be experiencing. That seems to me to be incredibly shaky ground for standing.

Fifth, the Holy Ghost teaches better than any human. I had 23 missionaries before I chose rebaptism. I can tell you which ones didn't bring the Spirit and which did. Most of the time, the Holy Ghost worked most effectively when the Sisters would sit and listen to me talk, working through my own griefs and trials with little interruption beyond a word or two of love and encouragement. Those who "preached" when I needed love often shut the mouth of the Still Small Voice.

Sixth, I chose rebaptism only after the Holy Ghost had retaught me the gospel, and reordered the programming I'd been raised on with His understanding of truth and spiritual perspective. It was only then that I was ready and that the Holy Ghost moved me toward the ordinance.

I don't have everything figured out. I would never claim that. Nor would I claim that all the answers for everyone in every situation are found in written form. Spiritual journey is about listening, about opening the heart, about trusting in the Atonement, in leaning not on personal understanding but pondering and allowing all those on their individual path to be lead to the Gate.

Sheep follow. Don't be the one found with the whip in your hand.

God hears my pleas when those who claim to listen fail. He sends comfort. He has given me mountains and feet and ears of my own to hear the call.

Repeat elevations

M— and I climbed the Squaw tonight.
4 hours roundtrip, which for M—'s first trip of the season is a feat.

 View of the valley from the Peak.

View of where I really want to be.

This is training.
This is sanity.

It's been a rough few days. 
Maybe, once I get some rest, 
I'll think about explaining this mighty struggle. 
Or maybe not. 
Perhaps I'll just climb to deal with the wrestle on my own.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Reviving Ophelia

You think you're doing well and then you wake up one morning and your ribcage is trying to constrict your heart. It hurts, like hell. You figure: I am in hell. Except that, as I took the time to explain to L-- this afternoon, Mormon theology doesn't actually support a belief in hell. And so you're left to find some other faith that will assume the depth of your suffering. 
If this makes no sense, I'm sorry.
I'm going to say I know what triggered this episode, and I'm going to hope that I'm right because the only way to deal with this kind of anxious turmoil is to think oneself through it, and to confront the trigger. Otherwise it's just buried until later. And believe me, it will resurface regardless of how hard you try to keep it submerged. 
It's funny how "mental" anguish, "mental" illness is manifest by completely physical means, and how it's hard to determine the line where mental awareness of pain becomes legitamate as a medical condition. What's even more humorous is the level of consciousness attached to this sort of pain, how it can remove you from reality, how it can bring your reality into greater focus, how we treat our awareness of pain with things like food, sex, sleep, exercise. I say "treat," but the only treatment these provide is a kind of self-indulgent drowning.
Poor Hamlet. You ignored Ophelia. You let her drown. But she never stopped haunting you, did she? I can feel her now, gasping for breath within these constricted bones. I carry her in my chest, put a hand to my heart and feel her waging for life. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Ghost within my ghosts, she chooses to be; a pain like a child in my right lung. In a night I've lost all focus. Who am I? What do I want?
The clouds lift, but leave a deep layer of snow across the valley's mountains. What now?
What now?
My faith: It will never stop aching.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fizzy Cranium: adventures in freelancing, people, and their words

I appreciate people who are good for their word.

I did freelance blogging a few years back for an opinion website. The understanding was that I would do the work in return for a future business contact and resume fodder. Then I decided I'd had enough of the site politics, enough of the contact I was working with through the site, enough of the site, and I quit.

I've checked back on the site once in the last three years. This, while I was engaged to ex 3#. I was open with him that I'd checked the site, but my ex went absolutely ballistic with jealousy and accusations of infidelity. (My contact with the site was male. I'd crushed on him until I hadn't. My crushes are always weird this way. When I checked the site I avoided this contact entirely.) One might say that my ex's reaction was one of many crimson banners. But what I'm really getting at is that I stopped checking the site, even for headlines for three years, and I never really knew for certain whether my work for them would ever pay off.

The last week or so I've been beefing my Linkedin account and working on my resume for my Professional Considerations for English Majors class. I've also been thinking pretty seriously about grad school applications and interviews. In conjunction with all of this I sent out a feeler to my old contacts at the opinion website, knowing that even mentioning the site on my Linkedin experience without reference was risky.

Today, following a mock job interview at the Career Development Center that I had to complete for this same class, I got an email that my old contact through the website had accepted my connection invitation, solidifying my reference for freelance experience for the opinion website.

Thank you, Mr. C--.

I dig integrity. I dig that I can use this reference. After the interview the advisor at Career Development asked why with all of my experience and capability I was even back in school. I guess I got the mock job.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Reinventing amusement

I don't want a replacement, but I think it's time. The mountains are all about breathing and sweat. I need  invasive thoughts to pull me from elevation to elevation, to show me paths from the heady intoxicant of inspiration to paper.

I need something silky; a phantasm, night-like. It must be dizzying and drunken. Swirling and tightroping the border of sane.

Muse, raise yourself! Restring your crossbar, find the stroke and syncopation of abandon, and amuse me!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What goes on when the door is closed

E-- is one of those chill kids. He wants to make movies someday. He does what he must in school to float by without too much attention, then writes sickly brilliant essays, then inks amazing illustrations and pulls watercolor technique out of nowhere to finish projects overnight, teaches himself math concepts when teachers aren't capable, thinks philosophy is cool but mulls it over for himself against the egos of the boys his age who are spouting Nietzsche. He loves his parents. He loves the underdog.

E-- keeps his bedroom door closed most of the time.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A boy is what he is


B— turns 8 in a week. He loves IHOP. He's got a mean eye when it comes to shopping for women's skirts and blouses. He knows he has to work a little harder than his classmates at focusing in school. He knows he was the last kid in class to make it to the 100s Reading Club. He knows that he has tics and that they're getting worse. He wants to know how the universe works. He is completely focused on having both a Heavenly Father (his "first" dad) AND a Heavenly Mother. He asserts his spiritual kinship with just about everyone and he loves them. He loves you. He uses the word assertive correctlyHe spends long stretches of time lining up his Hot Wheels in rows in front of our industrial fan for the 20 second thrill he gets watching them all "race" when he turns that fan on. His Minecraft skills are a force to be reckoned with. He likes to discuss needs vs wants. He enjoys writing stories. He is frightened of dogs and riding bicycles and heights. He has a rich repertoire of vocal noises that are almost always playing. He wants to join the Army, but he worries that because he intends to design a number of suits like Tony Stark his plans may be hampered as those in command may not want him to wear his suits rather than battle fatigues. The suits are non-negotiable. He climbed a waterfall today; it was entirely his own idea. He stood at the top of the trail and yelled, "I'm the king of the world!"

B— knows and understands his challenges. 
He knows what he can do.

He has no idea what autism is or that the label even applies.

This is who my son is.

In search of the sweetest blooms

This evening I took M— on the Stewart Falls hike.
It's one of my favorite training trails.
3.7 miles roundtrip
Average grade: 3%

an easy roller coaster 

of beautiful parasitic vines

aspen groves 

unfurling ferns

 (this one M— named "Homer")

stuff even I can't identify (but should probably know), 
wild violets


and wildflowers that only blossom
with patient coaxing.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Signatures and such...

Oh, yes. This finally happened.

I'll say the strangest aspect of this was going to the gym today and realizing that although I've never been interested in any of the other rats, the fear that I would be grilled for and accused of looking felt justifiably challengeable for the first time in three years.

I am my own woman.

How dare that mud spigot try to crush me as he has?

How dare I let him?

M— said, "You won't have to worry about nightmares anymore." I'd better make certain of that in the future. It's time to be a tight ass with responsibility for my personal happiness and wellbeing. In that, it felt comfortable that even today I had no interest in the parade of testosterone nor in their interest in me.

In which our photogeneticism is laid bare...

How to take a picture with which to introduce yourself to your Japanese host family:

We're hoping they'll let her in the house.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sexy. Random. Average. Poetry. Day.

I went to a reading and read. It was sexy. The reading—not that I read. Sexiness was determined by those in attendance. My favorite Happy Towne Coffee Shop poets came: Ky, Connor, Matt. The twist was, we didn't meet at the Coffee Shop.

In truth, we all read. It was enlightening and enleadening. And Matt always leaves me feeling like I'm treading water outside the ark and the rains have only just let up. Matt teases me with olive branches, but his wings are black and he caws. 

Thanks to Ky and Connor, I've been introduced to Chelsey Minnis. They've warned me; she hates poetry. The intro should have happened much sooner. Who knows where to place the blame? I'm going to let her influence my work, but not until June. Then I'm going to give her 30 days to unravel my undream. 

I came home with Connor's copy of Poemland to prep for the exercise. He's headed off to workshop in Pennsylvania. It won't be needed for at least two weeks.

I'm coming to terms with the fact that my son has Tourette's.

My oldest daughter needs my help to fill out paperwork to ship her to a country where the earth quakes on a daily basis.

I forgave my oldest son for saying, "I'm not like you. I'm not trying to kill myself."

I caught myself begging my youngest daughter not to look for something to be wrong with herself. "Be normal. Let that be the thing that sets you apart," I said.

It's been one of those days.

Is this something more?

B—'s tics are getting worse: vocal and motor. He blinks rapidly, often in groups of 3; clears his throat compulsively; emits "mhm-mhm-mhm" frequently; he is shrugging his shoulders in 3s and rubbing his head against the back of his neck. I'm trying to stay calm about the growing severity. B— says he can't help them, and I believe him.

I'm wondering if there is a co-morbidity going on with his PDD-NOS. Autism sometimes features tics, but with the number of tics and the severity I'm seeing now I'm concerned this may be a manifestation of Tourette's Syndrome. Everything I've read says medication is largely not needed, that behavioral therapy may be helpful, and that maintaining a low-stress environment and educating people around B— so that they understand what is happening to him is the best form of intervention. Diagnosis is of course preferred, but B— isn't insured and getting insurance is complicated.

Previous to my marriage B— was covered by Medicaid. His father was being tapped for insurance backup through his work, even though he was eluding child support payments. When B—'s father relinquished parental rights, believing as I did that my husband was planning to adopt B—, his responsibility for any financial support ceased. The fact that my husband immediately turned a 180 claiming he no longer had interest in adopting B— once parental rights were terminated is a double-edged sword. While I do not have to submit B— to continued exposure with his step-father, I have no way of providing coverage for B—'s medical needs without going back to the State. I'm guessing that such a move will prompt the forfeiture of parental rights to be expunged, and bring B—'s birth father back into the picture, further complicating the emotional trauma this little boy has already undergone. 

So I look at the situation. My son has tics, a little worse than moderate. Whether we have a diagnosis or not, they are what they are and they may or may not improve over time.

Otherwise, he is happy and sweet and loves people. I'm not certain that pulling strings to see a medical professional, or stirring whatever pot needs stirring to get medical coverage is worth the grief.

There are needs. There are wants. Poor little B— is plagued by so much extra. For him it seems there is always something more.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Role in your pursuit

The dialogue between L— and me has become saturated in a definition of expectations. I believe I am playing catch-up. Today, our discussion entailed the idea that regardless of gender, one should be unafraid to pursue one's passion. The trick, I told her, was finding a niche that made those passions indispensable in the free market, but that passion is simply non-negotiable as a lifetime directive.

It is how we best produce science, industry, art, and philosophy, I told her. Passion is the innovator, I said. Endeavoring to meet financial goals and in the process to arbitrarily stumble upon fulfillment in that aim just won't do. It never does.

Be passionate, I told her.

I went to the restroom. L— picked up my phone. She left me a little of her passion.