10/14/2018 – On Knowing Truth

T1 was telling me about a bully he faced down at summer camp. The bully was harassing another boy for picking his nose and proclaimed that the boy would never find love because of his 8-year-old hygiene habits.

As he was retelling the story T1 told me “I couldn’t think of anything to say that would make the bully stop, but now I would tell him that he’s wrong. It isn’t true that you won’t find love if you pick your nose because when we were in California I picked my nose and Mia loved me. Mia loved me and so I know that isn’t true.”

What a moment to be able to witness in my child! That mindset will serve him his entire life if he can hold on to it. The first of Byron Katie’s Four Questions is “Is It True?” Is it true that I will never find love if I pick my nose and eat it when I’m 6-years-old? Of course not! Is it true that my husband “never” or that my mother “always”? No! Right Now hasn’t done anything to deserve a promotion to Always or Forever.

When I am struggling it is often because I have flattened down the moment. I’m not living in the present, I’m living without depth. Yet when I remember to ask “Is it True?” the answer almost always is a firm “No!” It might feel true, I might want it to be true to fit a certain worldview, someone might want me to think it’s true for their own purposes, but none of these things are immutable and often they aren’t very dependable or reliable either.

I hope T1 will continue to ask himself this question over the years, it’s a very powerful tool. And when he’s kicking around those dark depths that makes us humans question what we know to be true, there is one Is It True that can act as his anchor. “Is It True that I have people in my life who want me to find peace and fulfillment and joy, who see me for everything that I am and love me truly?” The answer to Is It True is often a no, but in this case, T1, I want you to know the answer is a resounding, immutable, yes. I love you, I see you, I believe in you. <3

10/11/2018 – On 10 Years of Marriage

The irony is, if given the chance, and a time machine, neither of us would choose the other if we could go back and do it again. Somewhere deep in our psyche we’re still holding on to the idea that there’s a better fit, a right fit. Not a soulmate, but someone who better meets our individual needs. A part of our brains whispering “This could be be improved, but not with him/her. Tear it all down and start over with a different model and see how that feels.”

The relationship isn’t everything, but it is enough. And that’s different from settling. I am not resigned. I am determined. I am resolute.

We tried marriage counseling for the first time this summer and the first thing she asked us was what we want to get out of therapy. My answer was immediate, no pondering necessary: I want to see this relationship through until the end. Whether that’s the end of our lives I’m not so sure, I have no illusions about what the future holds. But even when I’ve known that it’s not working, at all, I’ve also known that it could work. There’s just enough raw material there for us to reset and reshape and try again.

What will I write after another 10 years? There isn’t a lot of romance in this missive. Maybe that’s the biggest difference between the Jenna from a decade ago and the Jenna typing this out now. I’m missing that magical combination of hormones that cast a warm, rosy glow over the entire endeavor. I still want it though, and that’s what’s important. I want to get up each day and try again, try to do and be better for him and with him.

There is romance in the relationship though. What I’ve written here isn’t entirely fair, to either of us. It doesn’t look like flowers or diamond earrings or giggling a lot or constantly touching each other. Some of the work of marriage is the effort required to allow the positive manifestations of the relationship to morph over time, and to notice and appreciate the new ways romance is expressed. When we stand in the kitchen late at night, laughing and sharing about our day. Hugging me because “it’s been too long since we’ve touched.” Supporting my choice to get a giant cake tattoo on my thigh by telling me that it’s my body and I should do what I want with it.  Reaching for my hand as we drive together. Reaching for me in the morning, hungry to feel the heat of me. The days when I see how much he does for me and I take the time to tell him how much it means to me. The days when he sees how much I do for him and he takes the time to tell me how much it means to him. Withholding eye rolls when I make my life more difficult by staunchly sticking by my principles. Allowing each other to run toward what we think we want most (even if we have reservations about whether that thing we want is actually the thing we need.) Understanding that we can’t be everything to each other. Fiercely loving our children and marveling that we joined together and made something so magnificent. Always, always allowing the other person to shift and change.

Writing out that list has shifted me into that mushy mindset one would expect from a 10th anniversary address. Come home safely from London, My Love. We still have good work to do.

10/5/2018 – On Reframing After #METOO

During summer break in 2005 I worked as a volunteer coordinator for the Stadium of Fire concert, a 4th of July celebration that takes place in the football stadium at BYU. I had been organizing university-wide events for the student body, dances and awards ceremonies and a baby pageant (it is BYU after all), and I wanted to learn more about the behind-the-scenes that went into organizing larger events.

I spent a week in the underbelly of the football stadium, buying towels and toiletries for the talent trailers of Mandy Moore and Lonestar, doing the sort of fetching tasks and menial work one does when they are young and energetic and eager to prove what a great employee they would be. My supervisor didn’t need very much from me until later in the week and so she told me to help the talent manager with his tasks as well. He was somewhere around 50 years old, a solid 25+ years older than me. I had gained a lot of weight since graduating from high school and no guys my age were expressing interest in me and so I was flattered when this older man paid me a little extra attention.

He asked me to come with him to get something and he was one of the people in charge of my volunteer efforts so I went. I can’t remember what it was we were getting, but we took a golf cart to a deserted locker room. He kissed me and I didn’t tell him to stop, maybe I kissed him back. He reached to fondle my breasts, but I insisted that I didn’t do that kind of thing and he stopped. We drove back and I thought over and over “I kissed an old man. What just happened? Why did I do that?” Looking back now I am fairly certain that we didn’t retrieve anything from the locker room and the whole thing was a ruse to be alone with me.

We had a second encounter, in Mandy Moore’s trailer when I was dropping off soap or snacks or something else they had asked me to purchase for her. He kissed me again, but I don’t remember him pushing for anything more than that. I never saw or heard from him again after the concert. I have no idea if anyone else working that week knew what was happening and I’ve only told this story to a very small number of people because for a long time I was very ashamed or embarrassed or guilty or confused about the whole thing.

I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed or guilty anymore and that has opened up my ability to re-examine this experience in the wake of #metoo. I initially felt guilt or shame because I didn’t know how to categorize such actions within my Mormon framework. Kissing was a way to express affection or desire for someone who you wanted to marry, and that was the point of all of it, to get married. I wondered if I was supposed to confess a sin to my bishop because he had touched my breast.

It’s only recently that I’ve been revisiting that experience and realizing that I missed something very important. He should have known better. He was in a position of power over me, and I was very willing to do what he asked of me because I wondered if he might be someone who could connect me with opportunities in the future. My Mormon beliefs provided the gumption I needed to stand up for myself and cut him off in the locker room, but I was very lucky that I was having an encounter with someone who didn’t feel entitled to my body. This story easily could have gone the other way entirely.

I can’t describe how I provided consent, but I also can’t say this was done without my consent. This isn’t a story about assault. I wanted to write it out because if what it taught me about the tangled relationship between context and consent. He should have known better. He used his power to set up situations where he could corner me. This wasn’t anything like enthusiastic consent, it was something on the fringes of coercion.

If I saw him on the street I’m not sure I would recognize him. Maybe this thing I’ve thought a lot about has never crossed his mind again. Somehow I get to think of myself as lucky because he didn’t assault me, because he’s one of the #notallmen who knows to stop when a woman says no. Whoop-di-doo, that’s a pathetic bar to be able to clear. He really should have known better.