Sunday, December 30, 2007

Gods and Goddesses

During the September 2006 women's conference, one of the speakers (sorry, didn't write down who, and too lazy to look it up) was speaking about God's love for us, and said something to the effect of; "What does His love feel like? Like a mother holding an infant." And I thought, "Why can't you just get over it and say that God is our Mother?!?"

I find it fascinating (well, okay, pretty infuriating too) that so many of the scriptural/cultural references to our distinctly male God, use maternal symbolism. Born of God, nourished by God, gathered under his wing like a hen gathers her chickens... And as mormons, we theologically believe that there is a Heavenly Mother... but this is not Her they are talking about. All of her skills and talents and gifts have been appropriated and applied to the all powerful Father. When I let it, this can really piss me off.

Lynette wrote an amazing piece over at Zelophehad's Daughters about why she doesn't want to believe in Heavenly Mother, and this part in particular really struck me, "I am not persuaded that the doctrine of Heavenly Mother is actually all that positive, at least in the context in which we have it... if Heavenly Mother exists, what we have is a divine role model for women which may be more disturbing than no role model at all– one in which women are silenced to the point of invisibility, in which they seem to disappear altogether into the identity of their husbands."

Honestly, I think that it is sort of the favorite parent thing taken large scale... you know, will the baby say 'dada' or 'mama' first? And in our lovely patriarchal culture, you better be sure that all the good little children are taught to say 'dada'

Saturday, December 29, 2007

dreams, fear, and church court

I had this dream last night, the part I remember most was happening right as I was waking up and it scared the shit out of me. In the dream was a letter from the bishop inviting me to have dinner with his family before my church court hearing (apparently I was going to be disfellowshipped). Weird, huh?

This is not the first time I have dreamed of being called to a church court. I tell myself it is stupid to think such thoughts, but the fact that my subconscious keeps kicking it out means that I have obviously not reconciled myself to this fear. It seriously freaks me out. I personally know some of the guys who would be on the 'jury' (is that the right term?) and keep getting flashes of what it would look like to have to sit in front of them and defend myself... and for what?!? G, do you seriously think you will be called in for loosing your testimony that Gordon B. Hinkley is a prophet just like Moses? Do you seriously think that you will be called in if you confess that you sometimes pray to the Heavenly Mother (or, more recently, just send out thoughts to the great big whatever that is out there)? Perhaps more realistic is the fear that it will be found out that I no longer keep the word of wisdom. That is probably a real concern.

whatever, I really wish I could get over this fear I have towards the organization, of being 'kicked out,' of being judged, of being condemned.

I really do think I am getting there, I rarely think about these sort of things during the day the way I used to when I first started questioning. But then along comes this dream...

Oh well

Friday, December 28, 2007

like a fire burning

"I, the highest and fiery power, have kindled every living spark and I have breathed out nothing that can die... I flame above the beauties of the fields; I shine in the waters, in the sun, the moon, and the stars, I burn, and by means of the airy wind, I stir everything into quickness with a certain invisible life which sustains all... I, the fiery power, lie hidden in these things as they blaze from me." - Hildegard of Bingen.

I first felt it when I was 23. I was a missionary who hadn't yet 'felt the spirit' when in the middle of a private prayer I felt like my heart had just lit up like a light bulb, a physical, almost disturbing sensation of space and illumination within the cavity of my ribcage. So tangible I stopped praying and opened my eyes... did I have heart-burn? was I having a heart-attack? no... just lightness. burning. cooling. And after that it would turn on at various times, in church, during discussions, while reading the scriptures, sometimes for no reason I could really tell.

Now, ten years later, after a devastating crisis of faith... It is still there. Not so predictable, more elusive. But there. Even sometimes in church, though I don't go very often anymore because when I do it is usually tedious at best, exhaustingly painful at worst. So odd that this icy cool light would blink on when I am enduring a talk full of statements that I no longer believe... but it happens (including a tiny flash in a sacrament meeting in mexico where I couldn't understand a word).
So too I felt it when conflicted with feelings and desire to pray to the Heavenly Mother... 'Oh please, dear Father, please let this be right..." and my veins tingled with warmth like my heart had transmuted all my blood into some luminous substance. I felt it briefly when I visited a quaker meeting, as well as almost every time I take the chance to get away by myself for a hike.

All my definitions have shifted, my beliefs on the nature of God, the godhead, The Holy Spirit, all of it. I no longer know exactly how to explain this feeling I get. That nasty antichrist Korihor accuses religious people of having a frenzied minds, deranged, minds and I do wonder sometimes if I haven't just manufactured these sensations. But I really don't believe that. I want to believe in something bigger and greater and all encompassing. I just no longer know exactly what that is.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

love food

so... I'm thinking of going vegetarian.

okay okay... cool down!

but in all seriousness, I do think about becoming a vegetarian. I rarely eat meat. And the way animals are treated in the meat and dairy industry turns my stomach. And Chandelle's blog about vegan cooking makes my mouth water. But then... so does steak, and shrimp jambalaya, and hot italian sausage ("bloody hypocrite!"). could I give it up? Probably. It's funny, I am be more inclined to give up meat than to give up sampling wine and beer and other Word of Wisdom objectionables. But my dear lover thinks differently about meat. I would have to spend a lot of time making very convincing yummy meals to pull it off, and I currently don't spend a lot of time cooking or planing meals.
I do spend extra money trying to buy off my guilt by getting cage free eggs and free range milk... but in the back of my mind I am sure that my extra dollars haven't really made much difference in the lives of the animals who's products I consume.

baby steps...

("damn hypocrite!!!") (hey, shut up! give me a break!)

Saturday, December 22, 2007


A rather disturbing piece, most people think, when they see it hanging on my studio wall. And in my own opinion it is not one of my stronger pieces. Yet I still usually have it up where I can see it as I work on other projects. I was doing a lot of ‘fish’ pieces at the time, some just fish, some had a woman with a fish inside her… and then along came this one… a great big fish who apparently ate a woman and now she is just digesting, waiting to be pooped out.

My mom saw it once and asked; “what is this one about?” (trying not to sound horrified.) I talked about the symbol of christianity, and becoming one with christ, being made a sacrament... And it was some of what I was thinking of as I worked this image out. The euphemistic version of it. It is also about being consumed. Absorbed. Swallowed up. Being fish food .

but I just had another thought too... maybe, possibly, that is a birth canal, not a digestive tract. conceivably (heheh) it is about being reborn, and not only about being shit.

passing through a particular event, coming out changed at the other end.

Hell, it's my art... I can say what I want about it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It hurts...

Oh God…
Sometimes it hurts so much.

So suddenly, like a barometer dropping wildly before a storm, I can crash so hard and fast.

Depression is a commonality among me and my sisters. Perhaps genetic (but apparently only dominant in the female offspring?) Perhaps just residual junk from our upbringing. Who knows. But it is there.

Not in childhood, only manifesting itself in adolescence in the form of eating disorders… but it seems to not hit its mature strength until adulthood, specifically, marriage and childrearing.

I can’t tell my sisters stories, just to say that I know they suffer their own variations of it, and fight it in their own ways.

For a brief time (just after my mission) I tried medication, but didn’t like it. And soon stopped taking it. I always felt I could manage it naturally, getting exercise, good sleep, drinking enough water, eating healthy, using herbal supplements, etc… and those things do help.

The horrifying thing for me is the fact that my strongest, most devastating trigger is my son. After four years, I still struggle to cope with this. I wrote a little about this at fMh, and one of the responses was “go to the doctor and get some medicine! It really can help!!.” I responded to that comment with something along the lines of “for me it has been as simple as getting daycare.” I was unsatisfied with my comment even as I posted it, but really couldn’t think of what else to say. To an extent, what I said is true; as long as I can be away from max for at least several hours, I do better. But I am not always able to ‘give him away’ to someone else, and as a dangerous pattern of suicidal thoughts has been growing I wonder if it is not time to go to the doctor and get some medicine. It can’t be natural for a person to contemplate some of the horrible things I do, merely because they had to be with a toddler all day.

Sometimes I wonder if this is exacerbated by my crisis of faith.

Sometimes I wonder if this is God punishing me for my doubt.

Mostly, I just want to find a way to be a good mom, and stop thinking about sharp objects.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

stepping outside.

A few weeks ago I mailed my temple recommend back to my bishop with a brief note explaining that it wasn’t right for me to have it because I had lied to him during the temple recommend interview. It took me three months to get up the courage to do that. I am so ashamed that it took that long, and even more ashamed that I actually did lie during the interview. See, I though I had more time… more time to figure out if I was ready to be an outsider to my family and friends, basically more time to slide along keeping a foot on both sides of the line. But when the church switched out the old temple recommends for the new bar coded ones I was caught off guard, caught before I was emotionally ready to become an outsider. So I lied.

Let me back up a bit.
I first went through the temple just before I went on my mission. Clueless, totally clueless to what was going on, and quite shocked at what actually happened in the temple but I had a lot of trust in my folks and the church. And I was going on a mission in a month so it was not a time to question but to increase my spirituality. Plus, all my life I had heard that going to the temple was the crowning spiritual attainment one could achieve. I was really big on being spiritually intune. So I went back several times in that month before going to the MTC, keeping my mind open, trying to feel the spirit, and trying to 'really understand' what the temple was all about.

Then I went on my mission. I worked hard, memorized a lot of scriptures and church doctrine, really polished my teaching style, and prayed all the time to be guided by the spirit. Before I came home I wrote my folks and told them I wanted to go right to the temple and do all the ordinances from baptism to sealing for some of out ancestors (we did this right after they picked me up from the airport, before I ever got home). I asked for this because that is what it seemed that a really spiritual person would of course want to do.

I went to BYU and became a MTC teacher (so I could be a good, spiritual, returned missionary) and went to the temple lots and lots. I decided to take it to the next level and become a temple worker too. Because I wanted to be ultra spiritual. (Also because I really desired to be able to perform ordinance work, to use my hands to bless and anoint another person… but that is another post altogether.) I was doing all of this to try to be a more spiritual person… but more and more I was feeling that I was a fake. I was feeling more and more alienated from God in spite of my best efforts at being spiritual. (It was during this time that I began work on an installation about approaching God.)

(Am I overusing the word 'spiritual' here? Well I was over-obsessed with it then.)

I got engaged my last semester at BYU and was married a few weeks after graduation. And then I started experiencing all the doubts and concerns and issues that I had so successfully blocked before. I don’t know why it happened this way, it was horribly unfair to this great man I had married. But that is how it was. As time went on I began to hate going to the temple. Perhaps it was that while a single woman I really could let the more misogynistic language of the endowment slide off me, but as a married woman I felt so much more the disparity. I am not sure. But over the next couple of years it became severely emotionally distressing to go to the temple. (both Caroline and Chandelle have written posts about their experiences in the temple that have many similarities to what I was going through.)

There was one particular time, however, when I discovered a reason to go to the temple. After a particularly depressing endowment session, we were finally all in the celestial room. Parents and adult siblings and spouses, we were all there smiling (or faking it) and wearing the same weird clothing. All one, all on the inside. How proud that made my folks. How much they loved to see all their adult children in the temple. Well, not all… there was one sister who had left all activity in the church. When everyone got together for marriages, she stayed outside and watched the kids. Outside. Not part of that group on the inside. When every other reason for attending the temple was gone, that desire to be part of the in group, to be included, held me for a good little while. The worst possible reason in the world.

As my disaffection grew (questioning the temple lead to questioning all sorts of things that had been a given growing up) it was that change of status from insider to outsider that started to haunt me when it came time to renew my temple recommend. I was able to justify quite a bit with mental gymnastics during the interviews. Interpreting the questions and answers a little differently (the questions in the interview do seem to allow for that). Technically honest. I really hated that… but was very fragile about the idea of not having that little piece of paper that made me part of the in crowd.

By Sept 2006 the recommend process had become quite the ordeal to drag myself through but I did. I wrote this in my journal after getting my recommend: “I am cleared for another two years. Two more years of thinking, reading, exploring, defining… who knows where I will be, spiritually speaking, in two years.”

January 2007, I was at a point in my ‘exploration’ that I decided to stop wearing my garments and to sample previously forbidden substances, like tea and alcohol.

By August we had heard that all the temple recommends were being changed out for ones with bar codes on them, and that we would need to get the new ones from our bishop and stake pres. It was too soon! I was supposed to have at least another year and a half to figure out where I was going with this! It felt like a big joke on me by God. Or perhaps a big test. Supposedly they wouldn’t to through the TR interview questions, but would just ask if we were worthy. What a question. What a question for me, who was trying so hard at that moment to define just exactly what it was that God wanted of me. Was I worthy before God? I felt so. But I was no longer worthy in the eyes of those men who would sit in judgment of my worthiness. Did I care? I no longer believed in their view of my worthiness… but was I ready to become an outsider? What a stupid question. Of course I was an outsider. Did I really think that I could go to the temple now and not feel like an outsider in spite of the fact that I may technically be on the inside? It was already so hard just putting up a good face at church and at family gatherings. I was being dumb. I was no longer just interpreting things a little differently, I had crossed a line only to find that I still wasn’t emotionally ready to be out. I had thought I would have more time to prepare mentally for that. I am pretty ashamed that I made that step while still being so ill prepared to deal with the consequences… but that is how it happened. I went in for my new recommend, the bishop actually did asked all the questions again, and I lied. I hate that. I hate that I was so caught up in trying to be what other people wanted me to be that I would do that. That i cared so much about appearances and trying to fit in, and that I didn't have enough strength to be authentic.

It really disturbs me, how this story plays out. I wish I could have played the roll of the intellegent, self-aware woman who knows her mind and is not afraid to act on her convictions. Instead I feel I play the part of a coward, a cheat, and a flip-flopper. In real life, it is not quite as black and white as all that. I think that I have been bits and pieces of both of those characters. I may always be some of each. I am hoping to in the future be so much less of the cowardly cheat.

It took me till November to worked up the nerve to write a brief note, and mail my temple recommend back to my bishop. I didn’t go into details, mostly just apologized for lying to him. He may want to talk to me about it; in fact I am sure he will… I am still working out what I will do if/when that happens. I will cross that bridge when I get to it. Likewise, there will be invitations to attend weddings, or to just go to the temple with friends and/or family, and I will have to find the best way to negotiate those waters. These things will be challenging for me. But for the moment, I am just enjoying the relief of having come clean in this matter. I can at least say now that I am honest in my dealings with other people.

[I wasn't sure where to include these in the body of my post, but over at fMh, Janet wrote two beautiful posts (part I and part II) with a touching interpretation of the endowment. While they didn't change my course of action, I found them helpfull in being able to appreciate other individuals experience in the temple.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

three monkeys on the bed

The kind of mom I am… when I come back into my bedroom to finish folding the laundry after answering the phone, and find that my son and his friends have taken off their own clothes and are now jumping on the bed (and the partially folded laundry as well)… I just sigh and start taking pictures.

Monday, December 10, 2007

because little buddy likes to clean things...

so first buddy helped me give shadow a bath...

and then, because he is really into cleaning things right now, he washed the bathroom...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

approaching God

This is an installation that I did several years ago. Actually, I did it twice, once at the end of my bachelor program, and then I was invited to install it again, a couple of years later at the BYU MOA (2003). This piece was rather a breakthrough for me, my degree was in painting and I really hadn’t explored very much beyond the 2D surface before. But I had been trying to visually work out my ideas about approaching God, and creating something you could actually walk into, passing through a ‘veil’ and coming “inside.”
In the center of this installation is a post of rough hewn wood about 4 ft tall, with an iron spike suspended in the air over it, a symbol for the atonement, sort of a stand-in for the cross. I think I was using my artwork as a sort of ritual, a process by which I hoped literally to come closer to God, for in spite of the fact that I was heavily involved in the church at the time I still felt this estrangement.
As I have allowed myself to question the faith I was raised with I have been terrified that the final destination would be atheism, that I would lose God. However, that hasn’t been the case. I have lost the cut and dried and thoroughly defined view of divinity that I was raised with... But God is still there.

“I realized that what has separated me from God is not doubt but beliefs and creeds and formulas… The philosophies and Cosmologies and Gods we have created are all far too small.”
-Robert Fulghum

“In the end, what I believe about God is simple. It’s like this- I used to have this really great dog. She came from the pound. She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all. She was brown. When people asked me, ‘what kind of dog is that?’ I would give the same answer: ‘She’s a brown dog.’ Similarly, when the question is raised, ‘what kind of God do you believe in?’ my answer is easy: ‘I believe in a magnificent God.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert

Sunday, December 2, 2007

figuring it out II

I bet that in my journal almost as much ink is used to record the words of other people as is used to record my own ideas and thoughts. It stems from my lack of skill with the written language; everyday I come across something written (or said) by someone else that neatly sums up a concept that I was struggling to put in plain English. I used a good amount of ink to copy down some of the things Sara Miles wrote in this book. Not only is this a beautiful account of her conversion and finding of her life’s mission to feed the poor, in this book she also puts into words some of the feelings and ideas that I have been having regarding organized religion (especially the Mormon religion, the faith I was raised in). Here are a few passages from the book:

“Any church was going to be disappointing. Wherever I went, I’d have problems as well as glorious epiphanies. Wherever I went I’d have to meet myself, and other people, if I wanted to get closer to God.”

“Everything I yearned for… was never going to be found neatly wrapped up inside the comfortable rituals of Religion… I was going to have to hunt in what the Bible called ‘the rough places,’ ‘the lonely places,’ ‘the desert”; among the people who had been cast out, in one way or another from the church.”

"[I reflected] on all the ways religion tried to manage and tame God; through compulsive rule-making, magical rituals, good behavior, [and] the sheer weight of church tradition."

Sara still chose to work from within from within a church and congregation to pursue her calling from the Lord. I keep wondering if I could not do the same. However, the small liberal Episcopal Church that Sara found God in is a far cry from Mormondom, particularly the brand I was raised with. There are so many things that I think, but cannot say to my LDS friends and family. I have become hidden, underground. Am I DAMU?

coming clean

I am rather obsessed with being spiritually clean. It was a big theme growing up in a strict LDS home, being good with God. I never felt good with God. God was the Father, and in the home my father would bring us individually into his office weekly for father-child ‘interviews’ to see how we were coming along. I don’t remember any cruelness or intent to hurt, and I don’t remember the specific list of questions we were asked. But to this day I have severe anxiety about disappointing my father. Disappointing God. And if you disappointed God, you couldn’t be with God. I have always desperately wanted to please God, and have usually felt like I was falling short. In the last few years my relationship to God has changed, or at least my feelings about my relationship to God has changed, no…I am not sure that is quite it either… I have changed a lot, spiritually speaking, and I am still coming to grips with it all. There has been a lot of fear, a lot of pain, a lot of seeking and only a little finding. I have lost who I was, but have not yet found who I am, and that is an uncomfortable place to be.
One of the reasons I decided to start this blog was in the hopes of it being a forum where I could talk out these issues, but I find myself unable to come up with the words. I am realizing that words are not my forte. I am better at the visual arts. So, I think I will try to break through the communication barrier with some of the artwork I have done during these transitional years. And as I am currently feeling rather blocked as an artist, perhaps this will also help me to rekindle the creative fire as well.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


I quite enjoyed This little piece about women embracing their physical imperfections, but I noticed that there wasn’t one who said, “I embrace my extra facial/body hair.” I am one hairy mother. We are talking serious bush here. And I am okay with that on most the other parts of my body… but my face?!? What was god thinking? While I do have some persistent lingering insecurities about other aspects of my physical appearance (it is an extraordinary feat in our culture to not have) on the whole I am so much more at peace with my body than in times past… however those dark hairs that sprout in patches on my chin and over my lip humiliates me to no end. I love Frida Kahlo, but I just don’t have what it takes. Every couple of weeks I pay someone to rip out these offending hair follicles with hot wax. And someday I’d like to laser those suckers out of existence.
On the positive side, I do have a great head of hair.
Just counting my blessings.